31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia; That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Fisher, Mr Jarman, Mr Macphee, Mr Martyr and Mr Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most affected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australiato establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia ‘s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fisher and Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the establishment of a gambling casino in Canberra would debase the National Capital and increase crime in Canberra.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should seek to preserve the dignity of the National Capital by disallowing any ordinance to authorise the establishment of a gambling casino in Canberra.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry and Mr Haslem.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the very survival of mankind is at stake, with the stockpile of nuclear weapons able to kill every person on earth 24 times over and with conventional arms of increasing sophistication having enough destructive power to destroy most life on earth.
Noting that, while millions starve, expenditure on the arms race is $ 1,000m per day for the World and $7m per day for Australia; and noting that the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has listed ‘peace and disarmament’ as a theme for the International Year of the Child; and further noting that a reduction in expenditure on arms could contribute in both developed and developing countries to the eradication of hunger and disease and to the provision of more adequate housing, education, health services, economic security and social welfare for all people:
In the interests of children in Australia and around the world, particularly in developing countries, and as a matter of highest priority during the International Year of the Child,
We call upon the Australian Government to give political leadership both nationally and internationally in working towards:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. byDr Blewett.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens of New South Wales
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1 980 and in particular to Government schools.
Government schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent, while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that the price of LPG in Victoria has risen by $80 per tonne since November 1978 as a result of Federal Government policy thereby causing hardship to country consumers using LPG for cooking, heating and hot water and to decentralised industries using LPG for industrial purposes.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
that pending the establishment of a fair price in accordance with Clause 2 above and to provide some immediate relief to country consumers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the city of Nunawading in the electorate of Deakin respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia per medium of the Minister for Social Security give all directions to ensure that necessary action be taken without delay.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in marine radio licence fees for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will reconsider the increased licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensions. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society. and your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
There is a definite limit to the quantity of Australia ‘s mineral resources.
Accordingly our resources should be managed and developed under Australian ownership and control. Publicly owned trading enterprises and corporations have been established and operated for the benefit of Australians since Federation.
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, Australian Wheat Board, were all designed to operate to the benefit of our Nation as a whole under public ownership.
The Fraser government’s irresponsible proposals to sell off our Nation’s interest in the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and to dispose of other successful statutory corporations such as Trans Australia Airlines, would be contrary to the Nation’s interests.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will reject outright proposals of the Fraser government to sell the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, and other publicly owned enterprises.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that there are Australian Aboriginal children living under conditions of inadequate nutrition in a background of poor housing, hygiene, and overcrowding that amounts to a Third World enclave in the midst of affluence’ (see also the Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs ‘Aboriginal Health’ 1979); that such a state of affairs is intolerable in our country; that only an effort on an unprecendented scale could create conditions that would give these children the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will make generous funding available for the specific purposes of: making a real improvement in the health, housing, education, employment and welfare of the Aboriginal people, doing so with due regard for the needs, hopes and aspirations of the Aboriginal people themselves; providing increased help, encouragement and opportunity for Aboriginal people to train as nursing aides and in other paramedical roles, and as fully qualified nurses, doctors and social workers; providing increased health education for Aboriginal people in ways that are acceptable to them. by Mr Ruddock.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House-
Notes that, expressed in real terms, the Commonwealth’s share of expenditure on road construction and maintenance has fallen by 6 per cent since 1975.
Observes that the New South Wales Urban Transport Study Group has determined that 60 to 70 per cent of the variation in fuel economy of light motor vehicles attributable to road and traffic characteristics is caused by low speed urban driving.
Further notes that Federal revenue from fuel tax and levies is estimated to treble to $2, 979m in 1979-80 compared with 1975-76.
Is of the opinion that the Government should urgently increase the level of funds available for road construction and maintenance in order to assist in the conservation of scarce liquid fuel resources.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House notes with deep concern that-
State corporate affairs commissions at the direction of State Ministers will have powers under the Commonwealth/State agreement to conduct special investigations and authorise prosecutions;
in New South Wales these powers have been used by the Attorney-General to attack political opponents;
in New South Wales these powers have been used to protect Labor dominated companies such as the Balmain Welding Company; and
the Bar Association has castigated the New South Wales Attorney-General for political tabling of reports, and therefore calls on the Government to order a full inquiry into the practice and procedure of corporate special investigations and prosecutions.
– I refer the Minister for Defence to his admission in this House on 20 September this year that the prototype naval patrol boat and possibly the first three naval patrol boats to be built in Australia would be approximately 20 tonnes overweight. What measures have been taken to reduce this overweight? Will it be necessary to strip the hulls of these boats? If so, what impact would this have on the electronic wiring of the boats? If it is not possible to correct the overweight, will it mean that up to four of the patrol boats will be of limited effectiveness in Australia’s difficult reef and coastal waters?
-The Chief of Naval Materiel, Rear-Admiral Rourke, will leave Australia tomorrow, I think, for the United Kingdom where trials of the boat will be conducted. Until those trials are completed I would not be in a position to answer my honourable friend’s question, other than to say that there are indications that the performance of the boat will not be markedly affected. As to the manner and form in which the weight will be reduced, I regret that I am not in a position to answer that question technically. I will regard that part of my honourable friend’s question as being on notice and I will provide him with an answer as soon as possible.
-I direct my question to the Deputy Prime Minister or perhaps the Treasurer.
-The honourable gentleman will have to make up his mind.
– I will make that decision.
– The Deputy Prime Minister won. He put his hand up. I refer to the bid by CSR Ltd for Thiess Holdings Ltd. Is he aware that this bid reflects the accelerating centralisation of private enterprise in Australia as a result of which the outlying States, although they are the most quickly developing, increasingly have their basic decisions made in Melbourne and Sydney? For example, the practices in Western Australia and Queensland mining and financial institutions can best be determined by consultations in Pitt Street and Martin Place in Sydney or Collins Street in Melbourne. Will the Minister therefore consider making a specific reference to the Campbell committee of inquiry on this matter so that financial and banking institutions and their surrounding cluster of private enterprise offices reflect some of the Federal Government’s federalist principles?
– My attention has been drawn to the bid or, more precisely, the activities of CSR to acquire a larger shareholding in Thiess Holdings. My own very strong view is that by and large governments, Federal or State, ought to stay out of share market transactions of this nature. I hold very strongly to the view that it is a great pity that people appear to take fright as soon as there is a bit of activity between some very large companies. Both of those companies have been extraordinarily successful. I am very conscious of the contribution that Thiess Holdings has made to the State of Queensland and the legitimate interest of the people of Queensland and the Government of Queensland in the employees of that company and its future fortunes. But equally one ought not to underestimate the contribution that has been made to the State of Queensland and to Australia by the CSR company. I will consider the honourable gentleman’s suggestion, but in all honesty I have to say to him that I have a marked prejudice against any activity on the part of this Federal Government that would appear to intervene overly in normal commercial transactions that ought to be observed by governments and not be the subject of intervention by governments.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Further to the question asked by the honourable member for Banks, I ask the Minister Were the hulls of up to three patrol boats laid in Australia some months before the launching of the British prototype? Was the decision to begin construction of the Australian boats made before the British prototype was launched and proved? Finally, is this an example of standard practice of project management under the defence policies of the present Government?
– I am sorry that the honourable gentleman draws such an ungenerous conclusion.
– It was merely a question.
– Yes. I seek to explain to the honourable gentleman the contractual position. There was a contract between the Australian Government and the constructor of the lead patrol boat, namely Brooke Marine Ltd. There was, in turn, a contract between North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd and Brooke Marine Ltd. The nature of that contract was that the boats to be constructed by North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd would follow in every particularity the lead boat, that is, the one being constructed by Brooke Marine. Yes, it is true that the steel was ordered and the hulls were cut and laid before the prototype had been proven. Beyond that, I do not know what I could say to my honourable friend. I have never disguised from this House the fact that a mistake was made.
– It’s a wonder.
– It is all very fine for the honourable gentleman -
– Another FI 1 1; on the water, this time.
– Let me say this to the honourable gentleman: The Fill is the finest strategic strike bomber in the world today. If the Labor
Party had had its way, this country would never have had it.
– The patrol boat will be the angel on water.
– The honourable gentleman takes such a passionate interest in defence that he is a scratching from Kangaroo III tomorrow, and I would say that that is one of the cheer-up features of the exercise.
– The Minister for Trade and Resources would be aware of the Australian sugar industry’s interest in the finalisation of the International Sugar Agreement. Can the Minister advise the position as to the Congress of the United States of America voting to ratify that Agreement?
– I have been notified that the key sugar legislation which incorporated the provisions of the International Sugar Agreement has been rejected by the United States Congress. This is most unfortunate as we have been waiting for some considerable time to have the United States Administration get ratification of the International Sugar Agreement. The United States has been a principal participant in the formulation of the present International Sugar Agreement and it gave us a number of assurances that the International Sugar Agreement would be ratified. However, I am told that the Administration and senior congressmen will now split the legislation, go back to the original part which contained the provisions of the ISA and resubmit it to Congress in the hope that it will be accepted.
In the meantime, I can well understand the difficulties that this will cause and the concern within the sugar world. However, it is the belief of the sugar producing countries that they should all hold together and not abdicate their responsibilities to the ISA. At the moment, ISA countries are holding large quantities of sugar off the market. If all this sugar were to be freed, it would have a depressing effect on the price. There has been some strengthening of the market in recent weeks and it was hoped that this trend would continue. Certainly, the price would have been ever so much worse over the last 12 months if the provisions of the ISA had not been working. The withholding of sugar from the market has certainly kept the price at a higher level than it would have been otherwise.
I think the most disturbing feature, while we now wait for the United States to try again to ratify the Agreement, has been the actions of the
European Economic Community countries. They have continually dumped large quantities of subsidised sugar on the world market and have been largely responsible for the low prices that have been prevailing. I think it is appalling that they should shelter behind the actions of the United States in saying that they will not accede to the ISA until the United States takes action. This, I believe, is a cowardly approach. They should accept the responsibility of helping the developing and sugar producing countries of the world in trying to bring some reasonable price stability to the international sugar market. However, I believe that the United States Administration will try to get the ISA ratified. I am looking forward to its succeeding in doing so.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I refer him to the Government’s decision to fit the naval patrol boats with the obsolete Bofors gun. Did the Minister, in his reply to a question on notice from Senator Mason, indicate on 12 September that the design of the patrol boat included a growth margin for additional or heavier armament? What impact has the discovery that the British prototype and possibly the first boats built in Australia are some 20 tonnes overweight had on this growth margin for additional armaments? Does the need to reduce the weight of these boats mean that it will not now be possible to fit further armaments and that, in short, we are stuck with the Bofors gun? Given the number of misadventures associated with this project, will the Minister consider changing the name of this class of patrol boat in order to protect the innocent in my electorate?
– I am sorry that I do not feel at liberty to congratulate the honourable gentleman on the quality of his recitation of the language in the question. I hasten to assure him that the Bofors gun is not obsolete. If one were discharged in his direction, I think it would stir him from his characteristic stupor.
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw the imputation about the honourable gentleman.
– With respect, sir, I was not reflecting on the honourable gentleman. I referred to his stupor. I did not call him stupid.
-I ask the Minister to withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I want to make it perfectly clear that in seeking to get the Minister to withdraw you were in no way protecting me. I could not care what the Minister called me.
-There is no point of order.
-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs now received official confirmation of the savage gaol sentences imposed in Prague upon the distinguished Czechoslovakian playwright, Vaclav Havel, and four other members of the Charter 77 sub-group, the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted? Has the Minister noted reports that, during the show trial in Prague, Western diplomats and journalists were excluded from the courtroom, that an accredited representative of Amnesty International was denied access to the courtroom and that Anna Uhl, the wife of one of the defendants, was physically removed from the courtroom and subsequently arrested? In view of the world-wide protests against this mockery of justice perpetrated in Prague and in view of the public statements of President Carter, Mrs Thatcher, the Italian President and the European Parliament, will the Minister now indicate Australia’s attitude to this travesty of basic human rights? Will he convey Australia’s views in the strongest possible terms to the Czechoslovakian authorities?
– I have noted a number of the reports referred to by the honourable member. I feel absolutely bound to say that the trial and gaoling of Czechoslovak dissidents in Prague in the past week is the most recent manifestation of the denial of fundamental civil and political liberties officially practised and officially sanctioned in many parts of the world, including Czechoslovakia. It has drawn an outraged response, and properly so, from the international community. This sense of outrage is shared by the Australian Government and, I am sure, by the Australian Parliament and people. So I add the Government’s and, I am sure, the Parliament’s voice to the condemnation so widely expressed throughout the world.
The Government of Czechoslovakia would claim, of course, that these matters are entirely domestic and that neither the Australian Government nor any other government has any direct standing in them at all. Strictly speaking, that is correct. But the fact is that they raise questions of fundamental concern to us all. We do not accept that men of goodwill do not have the right to speak out when they see normal human aspirations so ruthlessly swept aside as has occurred on this occasion. The irony of the matter for the oppressors is that the dissidents’ cause seems likely to be reinforced by the very severity of the sentences which were handed down in Prague this week.
The Austraiian Government has called on governments to abide by the important principles of human rights embodied in the United Nations instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1975 Helsinki Accords. I have noted earlier that Czechoslovakia is both a party to that Covenant and a signatory to the Helsinki Final Act. This latest action alone puts Czechoslovakia in clear breach of its obligations under those instruments. I very much hope that the Czechoslovak Government will take note of the very deep concern felt in this Parliament, and among Australians in general, concerning the current treatment of the Charter 77 dissidents and that it will not remain impervious to the moral force of international concern about its contempt for its responsibilities towards the people of Czechoslovakia in terms not only of international obligations but also of internationally acceptable standards of behaviour.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. I would like to be protected on this one. I refer him to his assurance in this House on 20 September that the Australian taxpayer was completely protected by way of indemnity against the overweight of the lead ship HMAS Fremantle. Does the same indemnity extend to the subsequent three boats which are being built in Australia and which the Minister indicated might also be overweight? If not, why was the decision made to go ahead with Australian construction before the launching and proving of the Australian prototype?
– It is a most agreeable business to find the ennui of this place disturbed by a newfound propensity for inquiry. Let me say to my honourable friend that I would protect him against any person who sought to assail him, be it on the left or on the right
I did inform the House that the contract between Brooke Marine Ltd and the Australian Government indicated that there was indemnity as far as the lead ship was concerned. I also informed the House, subsequent to that statement, that there appeared to be some doubt as to the position of the future boats. I went on to say that I had referred the matter to the AttorneyGeneral for his legal opinion. When that opinion is received, further to an undertaking I gave to the House I will inform the House of what the Attorney-General concludes.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to an assertion that the military exercise Kangaroo III was to a large extent a hollow shell? Has any professional assessment been made of the allegation? If so, what is the result?
– I saw an article, written by a journalist of sorts, saying that the exercise was a hollow shell. I have no doubt at all that that person was properly and adequately briefed by professional officers. On reading that report, I think one of two things could have happened. Either the person did not understand what he was told, or he could not understand what he was told. I point out to the House that one of the stated Army objectives of Kangaroo III was to exercise a lightly equipped task force. That was done and is being done. Another stated objective was to resupply that task force by day and by night. That has been done and is being done. Yet the person who wrote the report made what appeared to be some criticisms regarding logistic support. He even was moved to complain about the use of civilian trains in the activities. My recollection is that during World War II the railway system throughout the whole of Europe and the United Kingdom was absolutely crucial in the movement of men and materials. It is a matter of some astonishment to me that a person who holds himself out as a defence expert should have offered such a churlish criticism. The person concerned apparently wants Service machinery to be used on each and every occasion and for all purposes in order to develop a greater sense of realism. As far as that gentleman is concerned, I would be reluctant to authorise his travel by Service aircraft in future. I think he should walk from Sydney to Rockhampton and should consult notional refugees on the way.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It follows the last answer which he gave during this Question Time when he gave a noble and impartial display of concern about abuse of civil rights in Czechoslovakia. I might say for the record that the Opposition wholeheartedly endorses the views that he expressed. However, would he extend that noble and impartial declaration to other areas, such as areas within our own region, and condemn the quite nasty abuses of civil rights which have been documented in a number of reports such as those from Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists in relation to countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as many other countries which are in our region but are a little further away? If he is not prepared to give the same expression of condemnation of these very savage abuses of civil liberties in those countries, will he explain why there is a difference of temperament in concern between further distant Czechoslovakia and countries in our region where we have a substantial geopolitical interest and where we might be able to have a more substantial influence?
-This Government opposes acts of oppression and suppression of civil liberties wherever they occur. I have said that time and again. The fact is that it was this Government that sought and obtained election to the Human Rights Commission, and that those who sit opposite who proclaimed their interest in these matters at no time when in government sought or obtained election to that body. Distance is not the determinant of our attitude at all; neither do we have selective morality on questions such as this, as do certain others who sit opposite. I reiterate what I said at the outset of this answer: We oppose acts of oppression and suppression of civil liberties wherever they occur, and we have said so time and again.
– Is the Treasurer satisfied that the reserves of no Australian insurance company have dropped to a point of danger to its policy holders?
– The honourable member for Darling Downs, like, I am sure, a very large number of members of this House, displays an interest in the insurance industry of Australia. I can say to the honourable gentleman that the favourable conditions which have existed in recent years, following a period of adverse conditions up to 1976 and 1977 which imposed certain strains on the industry, particularly in the light of the number of natural disasters that occurred during that period, have contributed to a very considerable strengthening of the reserve position of Australian insurance companies. In this respect I refer the honourable gentleman to pages 31 to 34 of the report of the Insurance Commissioner which was tabled recently in this Parliament and which would give to the honourable gentleman some further background to the stability of the industry and the capacity of the industry to respond in the event of the occurrence of further natural disasters. The reserves of Australian insurance companies, which, of course, are subject to the provisions of the Insurance Act and the administration and surveillance of the Insurance Commissioner, are sound and stable. I believe that there is every reason for confidence in the stability of the industry and the strength of individual companies and their capacity to respond in the event of the occurrence of the types of disasters that have been experienced in the past.
-My question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce relates to a speech by the Managing Director of General MotorsHolden’s Ltd, Mr Chapman, last Monday in which he warned that participation by GMH in future world car plans was dependent on the Government’s increasing the incentives available under the export facilitation scheme and that his company understood from its discussions with the Government that ‘ further percentage increases were on the way’. Has the Government, in fact, given any such undertaking to GMH? If so, will the Minister explain why this has happened, when the Government has made no public announcement of any decision on the Industries Assistance Commission’s final report on this matter? If no such undertaking has yet been given to GMH, does the Government intend to acquiesce in such blatant industrial blackmail by acceding to GMH ‘s request?
– I have seen Press reports emanating from Mr Chuck Chapman, the Managing Director of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. The issue which the honourable gentleman canvassed is not a matter for only General MotorsHolden’s Ltd; the question has application to the total industry. If there is one thing that the Government has recognised in relation to the automotive industry, it is that the world car concept offers Australia many advantages, including modern technology, increased production runs and improved international competitiveness. The export credit scheme, which has been blessed in principle by the Government, as asserted by Mr Chapman and other manufacturers in the industry, will mean better cars at lower prices. In fact, in simple terms, there is no other way for the Australian industry to go at the present time. As I have said in this House and outside at earlier times, with five manufacturers operating in a very small and limited market, the Australian industry lacks access to scale economies, to world technology and to opportunities for product specialisation.
In addition to the developments which are taking place in the world automotive industry at the present time, there are, of course, very difficult cost conditions in Australia, as well as increasing consumer demand for cars with international characteristics. The honourable gentleman knows full well that the Government has received a report from the Industries Assistance Commission. That is not a matter which any Minister in this House ought to canvass, pro or con. The honourable gentleman knows the terms of the reference which was dispatched to the IAC by my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. All I can say to the honourable gentleman is that the Government will announce its decision on that reference during the weeks ahead, I think in three or four weeks from now. It will be announced in the context of the Government’s in-principle acceptance of export complementation. I would have thought that it also would be endorsed by at least some members of the Opposition party. As soon as that decision is available it will be announced.
– Have you told Chapman that? Have you given an undertaking about a higher percentage?
-The terms of the IAC reference make the position perfectly clear, as I recall them. If they are not clear to the honourable gentleman and he wishes to ask any further questions, I will be happy to answer. That decision in principle on a percentage basis was taken on a 5 per cent plus basis, not 5 per cent on a continuing basis. The extent to which there is any dimension whatsoever beyond 5 per cent was, of course, one of the significant areas of dialogue before the Industries Assistance Commission. It is to that particular point, amongst other things, that the Government will be directing its attention when it makes a decision and subsequently announces it to the people.
-I call the honourable member for Swan.
Government members- Hear, hear!
-Mr Speaker, the affection is almost too much for me sometimes. I am aware also of the affection of the Minister for Defence for some reporters. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement that 1 1 tonnes of material has been moved from the former nuclear testing site at Maralinga? Can the Minister reconcile that report with his statement to Parliament in October last year when it was thought that only a very small amount of plutonium would have to be moved? Finally, will he assure the House of the complete safety of the move that has been made?
– From the very beginning of this controversy I hoped that it would have been understood that the Department of Defence held the records of the tests at Maralinga and was in a very pure sense the archivist only of the records, undertaking to meet such requests for safeguarding of the material as would be appropriate. I see no cause at all to disturb in any way the information that I gave the House in October last year. Those records showed that there was half a kilogram of plutonium in discrete form. That half a kilogram of plutonium was removed. It was to be found in some six barrels of material. My understanding from the Minister for Science and the Environment is that the drums were encased in concrete but that only half a kilogram of plutonium was taken out of the country.
– National Development, not Science and the Environment.
– As to reconciling the different weights, I say this to my friend, the honourable member for Reid: You were asked for the dressed weight of the bullock. You gave the weight and then added on the weight of the truck that took him to the abattoir.
– I know that many members of the Opposition would wish that the satellite was just pie in the sky, but they know very well that this is an area in which the Government understands the communication needs of remote and rural Australia in a way in which the previous Government never did. I also point out that not only have we decided in principle that Australia should have a domestic communications satellite, but also at the same time we have agreed with Telecom on an accelerated program for the conversion of manual telephone exchanges to automatic exchanges throughout Australia. That means that by the mid-1980s nearly all manual telephone exchanges will be converted to automatic and nearly all those people who have no service will be provided with one. That program will cost over $500m. It will be funded by Telecom and it will proceed. I will examine where the particular areas mentioned by the honourable member fit into the program and give him an answer as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of a report alleging that $250,000 has been wasted in transferring Australian aid to Kampuchea because the Royal Australian Air Force could not be used for that purpose? Is that report correct?
– I have seen today a report that Australian aid to Kampuchea is costing $250,000 more than is necessary, allegedly because of the refusal to use Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, for whatever reason. In this case, I think it was cited that this was because the authorities in Phnom Penh would not allow it to be transported in that sort of aircraft. In fact, the Government did not approach the authorities in Phnom Penh concerning the use of such aircraft in relief operations. It considered that unacceptable risks could be involved in sending an Australian military aircraft into a conflict zone. So partly- but partly only- for security reasons it was decided that the Government should charter civilian aircraft for the relief operations. It is true that the Royal Air Force aircraft which are being used at present for ferrying supplies from Bangkok to Phnom Penh are CI 30 aircraft, but they are on loan to the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Committee of the Red Cross and they carry international agency markings.
More important, so far as the article is concerned, is the question of cost. The cost of the airlift of emergency relief supplies, whether by RAAF Hercules aircraft or commercial charter, would be paid and met from the aid vote. In fact, the use of RAAF Hercules aircraft is less cost effective than the charter of commercial aircraft. The Hercules aircraft has a maximum payload of 15 tonnes, compared with approximately 45 tonnes for the DC8 aircraft that we have chartered. The cost to the aid program of RAAF airlifts from Australia to Phnom Penh would have been of the order of $81,000 per flight, compared with an average of $86,000 for the commercial charter. Therefore, taking the amount to be airlifted and the cost factors into consideration, if supplies had been drawn from Australian sources nine Hercules aircraft would have been required to deliver the same volume of commodities as the three commercial flights can deliver. Those are the facts.
– I direct a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. I refer to the Government’s acknowledged policies of reducing real wages and depressing the living standard of Australian families. Is he aware that because of these policies an extra $17 a week is now required to restore average income families to the real living standards of 1975? Does he recognise that the effect of the recent Budget is to reduce family incomes by a further $9 a week over the course of the financial year? Is it the Government’s intention now to support only a 75 per cent wage indexation increase to compensate for the 5 per cent cost of living increase over the past six months? Would the net effect of such a policy be to deny to average income families the full $1 1.50 a week offset to which the cost of living increase would entitle them? Finally, would the Government’s policy therefore provide a compensatory post-tax increase of only $6 a week? Will this persistent erosion of family living standards further depress demand and lead to lower levels of economic activity?
-The Leader of the Opposition asked a series of hypothetical questions and in the process of asking those questions he ignored a couple of central economic realities of the present time. The first of those economic realities of the present time is that the overall impact of the recent Federal Budget has been extremely beneficial so far as all aspects of the Australian economy are concerned. In no area has the impact of the Federal Budget been more beneficial than in the area of the perceptions of investors, both in Australia and abroad, as to the future strength and vitality of the Australian economy. I again remind the Leader of the Opposition, because he appears to be absolutely incapable of grasping this very simple fact, that the greatest test of all of people’s confidence in the economic future of a country is their willingness to invest in its future. There is no better illustration of the long term value of this Government’s policies and the long term preservation of the living standards of Australian people than the willingness of Australian people and people from abroad to invest in our country’s future. The Leader of the Opposition is concerned about living standards. If he is concerned about the living standards of average Australians and average Australian families, he ought to manifest a greater concern about the greatest threat to the living standards of Australian families, that is, the possibility of higher rates of inflation. If the contribution of the Leader of the Opposition to curbing inflation in Australia is to be found in the Adelaide conference of the Australian Labor Party, where hardly a syllable was uttered about fighting inflation, he will go down in history as the first leader of a major political party in Australia to give up in the fight against inflation.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics recently published revised trends for farm costs and farm income in 1979-80. I ask the Minister whether the figures imply that farmers’ incomes for the coming year will be maintained at a relatively high level.
– The figures indicate that farm income will reach a record level in the year 1979-80, rising from $10,610m in 1978-79 to $1 1,125m. I think the House can take some pride in the fact that there has been this turnaround in rural industries. My colleague the right honourable member for New England can take particular pride in that fact. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister as Minister for Trade and Resources, and the Minister for Special Trade Representations can also take some pride in the fact that there has been this big lift in farm income. The activities in the trading area have certainly gone a long way towards bringing about the recovery in the rural industries and this increase in rural income. As the Treasurer has just said, it is an indication of the recovery in the total Australian economy and is certainly a very important aspect of it. I should point out that one of the factors mentioned in the report is the concern about rising costs facing farming people. There is no doubt that one of the great aspects of the Australian Government’s approach to the fight against inflation is protection of the people who are earning the export income that is so valuable to the community. I reinforce what the Treasurer has just said. If the Opposition does not realise and recognise the importance of the fight against inflation, it ought to go and talk to the farming community and learn something about it.
Mr Les Johnson proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Transport-
-Order! The question is out of order. The Minister is not responsible to the House for the activities of party committees.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Nonetheless, the Minister is responsible for appointments to the Qantas Board, and specifically the appointment or reappointment of the Chairman, and that is the thrust of the question. I suggest that it would be unfair, given the public interest in this matter and the responsibility of the Parliament towards it, to rule that question out of order. It is a legitimate matter of concern in the community’s mind.
-It is a legitimate matter of concern and therefore the question has to be expressed in a manner that is legitimate under the Standing Orders.
– With respect, the Minister for Transport is responsible for the reappointment. That is the thrust of the question. The query is whether he will allow himself to be intimidated by the pressure of Government back benchers, mainly in the Liberal Party.
-Order! The question is out of order.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a recent Press article which suggested that arrangements for Australia’s bicentennial celebrations are a ‘bicentennial bungle’? Can the Minister advise whether arrangements for these celebrations are well in hand?
– I thank the honourable member for that question. I have seen the article to which he referred. It was, I think, in the Bulletin of a couple of days ago. My direct reply to the honourable member is that the suggestion is completely false. There is no bungle in connection with the bicentennial celebration arrangements. The article is spread over five pages. It is shot through with inaccuracies. It contains plenty of questions but is very light on answers. I would like to take a moment of the time of the House to deal with a couple of the charges made in the article. In the first place, the article, which was written by Mr Denis O’Brien, states:
It is only fair to say, though, that the whole show would be shaping up far more prominently if it hadn’t lost the guiding hand of Harry M.Miller early in 1979.
The writer of the article is suggesting that that is the reason the alleged bungles are occurring. He went on to say that Mr Miller resigned. In fact, the House knows what happened. The arrangements in connection with Mr Miller’s appointment were terminated. It is significant to note that the person who wrote the article was employed in my Department and at that time was assisting Mr Miller in the bicentennial arrangements. I think the whole thrust of the article is coloured by the views of the writer, whose appointment also was terminated.
He went on in the article to attack us on the delay in getting on with the job. He said that in April the Prime Minister appointed Mr Reid as Chairman of the Australian Bicentennial Authority, which is correct. He said that after months of silence, with nothing happening, finally the winner of the logo competition was announced on 1 1 October. I would have thought that was pretty good progress. I hold up the winning design for the benefit of the House and you, Mr Speaker, as you were present at that ceremony, as was the Prime Minister. It is interesting to note that the designer of the logo is a citizen of the Australian Capital Territory. Steps are being taken to protect the design for the Commonwealth and shortly we will introduce the necessary legislation. The logo will then be usable and income will flow to the Authority. I will take only a moment more of the time of the House to deal with a couple of other inaccuracies in this article. Later in the article Mr O’Brien said:
At the moment, the Authority would seem to be a oneman business. There has been no public announcement of any of the 16 appointments to the board . . .
That is quite true, but within the next two weeks there will be an announcement on the appointment of 16 people to the board, two of whom will be members of this House. The writer of the article went on to say that there had been no word about who was to become the general manager of the Authority.
– Include it in Hansard.
– This publication is dated 30 October. An announcement was made nearly two weeks ago on who would be the manager of the Authority. I table the Press release that was put out at the time, just to satisfy the honourable member for Reid. Summing up and having regard to your patience, Mr Speaker, let me say that the Bicentennial Authority arrangements are coming along very well. Mr Reid, the Chairman of the Authority, is doing what I believe will be proven to be a first-class job. I refute all of the inaccurate arguments which are in that article.
-I direct to the Minister representing the Attorney-General a question which is central to growing public concern on the issue of national security. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to public reports that today the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has flown agents from Canberra to Sydney to take possession of documents from a couple? Is he aware that Criminal Investigation Branch detectives are guarding two members- that couple- of the North Sydney branch of the Liberal Party following threats to their safety, and that these matters are related to allegations that a senior Liberal Party senator is allegedly- I repeat, allegedly- a tool of the KGB or a plant of the socialist Left? In view of the wide and expanding currency of these reports, the seriousness with which they are being treated by the media and the concern they are causing the public, will the Minister have them investigated immediately and make a full statement to this Parliament to reassure the community?
– I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition is well aware of the well established principle that has been followed by the present Prime Minister and by former Prime Ministers, both Labor and Liberal, namely, not to comment publicly on assertions or allegations about the activities of ASIO. I respond on the basis of that principle. I will refer the question to my colleague, the Attorney-General, to see whether he wishes to add anything.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Finance 1979.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 I present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission 1979.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 I present the annual report of the
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service 1978-79, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science and the Environment relating to the report.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972 I present the report of the Australian Institute of Marine Science 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 24 (4) of the Metric Conversion Act 1970 I present the ninth report of the Metric Conversion Board covering the year ending 30 June 1979. The Board has continued to carry out is functions in achieving the object of the Act, and no amendments have been made to the Act or regulations introduced.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act 1974 I present the annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute 1979.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Australian delegation to the 1979 session of the Committee on Disarmament and Australia’s participation in the Committee and seek leave to make a statement.
-This is the first time that a report on the work of the major international negotiating forum on disarmament has been presented to the Parliament.
The Committee on Disarmament is a new body. Following a decision taken at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to disarmament, which was held in 1978, a 40-member Committee on Disarmament replaced the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament as the international community’s principal negotiating body on disarmament. Australia succeeded in securing membership of the new body. The Committee began its work this year and held two sessions in Genevabetween January and April and between June and August. I addressed the Committee at its inaugural meeting on 24 January 1979.
The success of our bid for membership of this most important Committee was the culmination of efforts by the Australian Government over a number of years. It is tangible evidence that this Government’s active commitment to achieving substantive arms control measures is acknowledged internationally.
The work of the Committee is of special relevance to the important Australian interest iri promoting the goal of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. When we announced in 1977 the Government’s decisions to proceed with the mining and export of uranium, we emphasised Australia’s concern to pursue a broad-based approach to non-proliferation issues. Proposals relating to the further control of nuclear weapons will be an important part of the Committee’s work in the negotiation of international arms control measures. The Committee’s predecessor, the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, was responsible for the negotiation of a number of important instruments, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention and treaties regulating the placement of nuclear weapons on the seabed and in outer space. As a member of the Committee, Australia is now able to participate directly in the negotiation of new and further important measures.
The Committee’s agenda and program of work so far have reflected Australia’s concerns. We have an overriding interest in seeing the early conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty as the most important next step forward in the process of nuclear arms control. Negotiation of such a treaty and adherence to it by a wide range of states would inhibit the further development of existing nuclear arsenals and act as an additional pillar of the international non-proliferation regime. A test ban treaty would create a new avenue through which governments could renounce the option of acquiring nuclear weapons. The Committee gave extensive consideration to the text ban question, but work on the drafting of a treaty awaits the conclusion of the discussions now under way among the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain. Australia is continuing to play an active part in international consultations, both bilateral and multilateral, to promote the early conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty.
The Committee on Disarmament also addressed two other nuclear arms control issues which Australia regards as deserving of international action. The first was the question of assurances by the nuclear weapon states that they would not use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapon states which had themselves renounced the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The second was the need for an eventual international agreement which would prohibit the production of fissionable material for nuclear weapons purposes. This would be a most important step in the direction of nuclear disarmament.
In addition to issues of nuclear arms control, the other principal area of activity in the Committee has been a proposed convention prohibiting the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons. This has been under consideration internationally for some time. Australia recently highlighted the importance of achieving such a convention. I was pleased to note that the Committee on Disarmament devoted considerable attention this year to this matter. Progress made has significantly enhanced the prospect of these weapons being brought within a regime of international control and supervision. The United States and the Soviet Union presented to the Committee a draft convention banning- radiological weapons. Whilst no country possesses such weapons, a convention would be useful in proscribing an area of possible weapons development. There are good prospects that this proposed treaty will be concluded without undue delay.
The report of the Committee on Disarmament to the United Nations General Assembly has been issued as Document CD/53 and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. There is significance in the timing of the presentation of the report by the Australian delegation to the Parliament. The Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament in 1 978 decided that the week commencing 24 October each year- namely, United Nations Day- should be designated as Disarmament Week. To mark Disarmament Week in 1978, I submitted to Parliament the report of the Australian delegation to the Special Session. In an effort to promote greater public awareness and understanding of disarmament issues, the Department of Foreign Affairs circulated copies of the report to educational institutions, libraries and interested non-governmental organisations.
I propose to begin the practice of submitting to Parliament on an annual basis a report on Australia’s participation in the Committee on Disarmament. It is my intention that annual reports about the work of the Committee on Disarmament should be submitted each year during Disarmament Week. Copies of these reports will be distributed widely in the community in order to enhance public interest in arms control and disarmament. The Government has also drawn to the attention of interested organisations the declaration by the United Nations of Disarmament Week. I am pleased to inform the House that one result of this effort is that the Canberra branches of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the United Nations Association of Australia and the Human Rights Council will jointly sponsor a seminar in Canberra on disarmament issues on 30 October.
The achievement of effective arms control and disarmament measures requires sustained effort by governments. The Australian Government has demonstrated its willingness to contribute to this process. As a major potential exporter of uranium, Australia has a special responsibility to work for measures to ensure that nuclear weapons do not put humanity at risk. This is one of the principal objectives which underlines our approach to participation in the international consideration of arms control and disarmament questions, including participation in the Committee on Disarmament.
-by leave- The Opposition welcomes the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the tabling of the report of the Australian delegation to the United Nations Committee on Disarmament. We applaud the fact that the Minister proposes to submit to the Parliament each year a report on Australia’s participation in the Committee although we do not expect him to be occupying his present position for too long. We have to discuss the merits of the report. I put it on record that it was the Labor Government in 1974 which first sought to secure membership of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament. At that time we were not able to be given a place because we were a Western aligned nation. Allegedly, this would have affected the balance between the number of Western allies and the number of Soviet allies. The Soviet Union at that stage did not seem to have enough allies to enable Australia to get a place on the Committee.
We are pleased to see the expansion of the Committee and the fulfilment of understandings secured with other governments when we were in government that Australia would get a place on the Committee as soon as possible. We agree that the items under discussion by the Committee on Disarmament include issues of substance and urgency. In particular, the achievement of a comprehensive nuclear test ban is of critical importance. The Minister notes that this prospective treaty is currently the subject of negotiations between the two super-powers, namely, the United States and the Soviet Union. This is true, but even more to the point is that the achievement of a comprehensive test ban is dependent in the first instance on the conclusion of a new Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union. This is for two reasons. Firstly, without agreement on SALT II there is little prospect of the United States and the Soviet Union agreeing on any other arms control matter in the next few years. Secondly, unless the Soviet Union and the United States agree on limitations to their own armaments, there is nil prospect of critically important countries, such as India, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, agreeing to a comprehensive test ban. Already the moment for securing Indian or Pakistani agreement may well have passed.
The significance of a comprehensive test ban in relation to these countries is that they have not become parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They state that that Treaty is politically objectionable because it establishes two classes of states, the nuclear weapon states and the nonnuclear weapon states. They may, however, accept a comprehensive test ban in which the nuclear powers bind themselves equally not to conduct tests. Australia would, of course, become a party to, and support such a treaty. The so-called negative nuclear security assurances, or undertakings by the nuclear weapon states not to use weapons against non-nuclear weapon states which have renounced the acquisition of nuclear weapons, are also important. We would welcome the achievement of a consistent, equal, and widely recognised statement in binding form which could be entered into by the nuclear powers.
We are less happy about the proposed agreement which would prohibit the production of fissionable material for nuclear weapons purposes. At the time the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) first espoused such a treaty in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 5 June 1978, we praised him for the meaning of that commitment. But when I asked him whether it meant that Australia would not permit the high enrichment or reprocessing of Australian uranium, the Prime Minister replied that he did not mean that. What he meant was that an agreement would bind countries not to produce material specifically for weapons. But that leaves it entirely possible for them to produce weapons-usable material in any other circumstance. We have to face the fact that there are already vast quantities of weapons-usable material in existence which are not stated to be for weapons but which are in national hands.
As part of its program to develop fast breeder reactors Japan, for example, has accumulated five tons of plutonium as plutonium metal and that is under national control. It should.be under international control.
There continues to be a risk of countries moving deliberately to acquire nuclear weapons as we see Pakistan now doing. There is likely to be, by the 1990s a much larger and quite new problem, arising from national accumulation of weapons-usable material in what is called the peaceful nuclear fuel cycles. That is the problem ignored by this proposal the Government supports. The Government’s proposal already has a hole in it for a country like India to slip through on the basis that India was using a peaceful nuclear explosive device.
The risk of the 1990s lies in the apprehension of countries which look to their neighbours or to others and see that they have stockpiled massive quantities of weapons-usable material. They in turn will feel obliged to stockpile such material, and to develop the equipment which will enable them to divert material to bombs in a matter of hours or days. The Government’s proposed treaty ignores this central future problem of nuclear proliferation. Similarly, the Government has ignored proposals that all sensitive stages of the nuclear fuel cycle should be internationalised. That proposal cuts across the fundamentally greedy motive of the Government’s uranium export policy. We look forward to the achievement of a chemical weapons convention.
We would hope, however, that the radiological weapons convention is not the first document agreed upon by the Disarmament Committee. This is a convention drafted by the nuclear weapons states to prevent other countries acquiring cheap and dirty weapons which they do not want. There are intrinsic merits in the proposal, which would ban weapons which do not rely upon a nuclear explosion but which have their effect by the dispersion of radiological material.
But it could be a very poor and sad starting point for the Committee. Too many disarmament agreements cover weapons nobody wants or uses. We would hope a treaty of greater effect would come first.
I would like to put the Minister’s speech, and the report he has tabled in a wider context. The term ‘disarmament’ is most usefully seen as shorthand for ‘disarmament and arms control’, and covering a wide range of activities which could be put under these six headings: Firstly, the negotiations between the superpowers to control nuclear armaments and otherwise limit or control the development of the strategic environment or particular weapon systems; secondly, the discussions in international organisations, particularly at the United Nations, among wider groups of countries to seek the elimination, or ban the use of, particular categories of weapons; thirdly, the diplomatic conferences sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross to improve international law relating to humanitarian rights in armed conflict; fourthly, the various activities underway to prevent the diversion of nuclear material to military or explosive use; fifthly, regional negotiations to secure limitations to or a reduction of force levels, or to establish procedures for war avoidance; and finally, unilateral actions by countries to shape their defence forces and their diplomatic posture to diminish the prospects of conflict and enable reallocation of national resources in their region to social purposes rather than military expenditure.
All these activities have relevance to Australian security and foreign policy. Australia is in a position to express views on all of them. I would hope the Minister would recognise these as subjects requiring government comment.
There is wide and understandable public concern about disarmament issues and the Minister certainly appears to recognise that. But I hope he realises that he should do more than table this report on activities at the United Nations. I have made the point that that is just one corner of the field. Let me give a parallel example. The Minister’s explicit policy towards human rights issues as set out in his annual foreign policy statement on 9 May 1978 is that these issues should be discussed in the United Nations and not elsewhere. We reject that policy.
Again, today in Question Time, the Minister was anxious to say that Australia was on the Human Rights Commission. The Opposition is equally anxious to say that if the Human Rights
Commission ever looks at the legislation in Western Australia or Queensland relating to trade unionists and to Aborigines, it will find that we have failed miserably. The Government has responsibility to legislate in this field. It has power to do so under its external affairs power. The Opposition does not want to see the Minister embarrassed at the United Nations, but if people start to agitate in this country- as they are- against the deprival of their human rights, he is going to be so embarrassed. It is important that the Government, of which he is a most influential member, does something about it. It is ridiculous to think that trade unionists are now being incarcerated because they attended a meeting to discuss trade union matters. That is because of a State law that is so vindictive and so unadaptable. Coming back to the point, we would reject the assertion that participation in the Disarmament Committee at the United Nations is a substitute for a cohesive national policy touching all aspects I referred to above, because we are not going to solve a great deal in the United Nations committee. The Minister knows very well that on a major multilateral issue the Committee waits upon the timing of the superpowers. We must take positions outside that particular environment.
We have waited almost six months, for example, for a clear statement from the Government urging ratification of SALT II. We have not yet heard any such statement, but it is very clear where our national interests lie. The Government fails in that regard to defend Australia’s national security interests.
– I called for the ratification of SALT II.
-You do not seem to have made much impression here.
– I think it is just that you didn’t read it.
-Where did you make it? I will accept that, but it seems to have escaped the notice of most people. I want to make the point that I hope we can give him a few Dorothy Dixers on that issue.
-I will get them from the Minister’s side. The point I want to make is that in June I was in New York and I was anxious to put the Opposition’s point of view. I said then- if it has been corrected since, well and good- that our Government should be pressing the United States to take the same and positive step of ratification, in defence of our Australian national security interests. If the United States does not ratify SALT II there will be grave consequences for our security and for global stability. Most importantly, this could have a radical impact on the role of the United States strategic bases in Australia, because unless there is some ratification from the point of view of SALT II, one can see an argument that there will be no real opportunity to justify the basis. We want to put the matter on that basis. So far as regional policies are concerned, we consider the Government’s policy of taking sides in relation to the wars in Indo-China to be destructive to regional security. We have that problem now. The continued recognition of the Pol Pot regime -
– You recognised it.
-We recognised China, too.
– You recognised Pol Pot.
-At this stage the Minister might have a look at the situation that has developed since.
– I said last night that I was.
-What is the Minister doing about it?
– I told you last night.
-No, the Minister did not. We seem to have a very sensitive Minister this morning.
– I am just trying to inform you, that is all.
-I am trying to inform the Minister that he has never had a chance to go to Hanoi. You were never allowed to go to China. You have had a lot of difficulties in your past.
– I was in China in June this year.
-I have been in both places. I can still talk to the Vietnamese. You cannot.
– I talked to the Vietnamese at the United Nations two weeks ago.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I ask honourable gentlemen to desist from this verbal ‘ping pong’. The honourable member will address the House through the Chair.
-It is most appropriate to use the expression ‘ping pong’. However, I urge the Minister to do what his talents would allow him to do if his Government would only permit him, that is, to do more than what he has done. I make the point that the Prime Minister made this comment at the United Nations Special Session on 5 June 1978 when he said:
My Government has recently informed the SecretaryGeneral that we are willing to submit our defence budget for analysis as pan of a pilot project on military budgets.
We have not held our breaths because the analysis does not seem to have come to light at all. In the first instance we would hope to see an analysis done by Australia of the relationship between our Defence Force structure and arms control objectives. We must take such issues seriously. As the report of the Australian delegation to the United Nations Special Session said a year ago:
The arms race is not diminishing but increasing and outstrips by far the efforts to curb it.
The past year has seen developments which make us more, rather than less, pessimistic. As the Chinese Ambassador was able to tell me, every time we have a disarmament conference we seem to have more armaments following the conference. He is not at all impressed. The trend of increase in the arms race will continue, not least because of the underlying force of military research and development. I think the following is important. According to the respectable Worldwatch Institute, which is based in Washington, global spending on research and development is around $US 150,000m a year. The development of military technology consumes more than $US35,00Om of that amount a year. That is about 25 per cent. That is compared with spending on global basic research of 15 per cent, on energy research and development of 8 per cent, on health research and development of 7 per cent, and on agricultural research and development of 3 per cent. The world’s research and development effort is geared more to the military needs of the 1950s than the social needs of the 1980s. More than half a million scientists, according to the Worldwatch Institute’s estimates, are working on new weapons and defence systems; that is, about 15 out of every 100 scientists who have ever lived are working on military projects.
In the Australian Government, defence science and technology establishments are estimated to cost $98m in the current financial year. That figure in the Budget Papers would not cover the full cost of administering defence research and the large research and development component in the cost of capital items purchased by the defence forces. We invite the Government to provide an analysis to the Parliament of its defence spending and to address disarmament and arms controls issues in a broader context, the like of which we have proposed.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the National Training Council 1979 Training Study Mission and seek leave to make a statement on the report.
-The National Training Council ‘s Mission was appointed in March of this year to examine and report to me on measures to promote systematic training in industry and commerce in Canada, the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom. Specific areas which the Mission was asked to examine were: First, funding of training in industry and commerce; secondly, skills in short supply; thirdly, government funded skill centres; and fourthly, training for small business. The Mission comprised members of the National Training Council. The Mission was tripartite in character and was led by Mr K. J. Fitzgerald, a senior officer of my Department. Other members were Mr C. O. Dolan, Senior Vice-President, Australian Council of Trade Unions; Mr R. G. Fry, Chief Executive and National Director, Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia; Mr T. B. Prescott, proprietor, T. B. Prescott & Co., Motor Engineers; Mr R. H. Wallace, Director of Technical and Further Education, Queensland; and Mr A. M. Coulthard, Secretary, National Training Council.
In embarking on its examination of training in the countries selected, the Mission reports that it was conscious of a number of factors affecting the extent and quality of training in industry, the expansion of government expenditure on training, the failure by many firms to train to meet their own needs, the present emphasis of the National Employment and Training SystemNEAT upon the unemployed, the large number of small firms in many industries and a consequent unco-ordinated approach to training. All, according to the report, affect the quality and quantity of training in Australia. The report notes that:
National and Regional shortages of skills must arise when the sum of the activity of individual firms is not adequate to meet needs.
In addition, the report underlines that:
It can no longer be ignored that the apprenticeship system is not meeting our needs for skilled tradesmen.
This particular point cannot be ignored by anyone who is interested in the future supply of trade skills and particularly by the States, industry and the unions. The Commonwealth Government will certainly be giving this question the closest attention. The report makes a series of observations about training measures in the countries the Mission visited and proposes a series of positive measures to respond to our industrial “and commercial training needs of the 1980s. I believe that the observations and recommendations contained in the report will be an important contribution to the Government’s consideration of the direction of our manpower policies. In view of the report, arrangements for industry training in Australia compare well with arrangements in the countries surveyed. Particular strengths in Australia which the Report highlights are the technical and further education system, the initiatives of the National Training Council and its industry training committees, and the training programs such as the National Employment and Training System and the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training.
Some of the major recommendations include: Continuing support and development of the tripartite network of the National Training Council and Industry Training Committees as the major means of involving all parties in assessment of industry training needs; growing involvement of industry in assisting technical and further education- TAFE-authorities to develop training relevant to meeting industry needs; development of the NEAT program to meet the need for further training and upgrading of existing employees in firms, as well as of the current focus of NEAT upon the unemployed; expansion of the National Training Council’s sponsored group training schemes which help groups of small companies to join together to meet common training needs; continuing development of new trade training arrangements which increase quantity and quality of trade training; and support for Crawford and Williams recommendations aimed at improving the availability of manpower information, particularly information concerning skills shortages in industry.
Each of the Mission’s recommendations will be given careful consideration by the Government. Also, many of the areas covered by the report are matters to which the Government is giving continued attention and which are complemented by related studies commissioned by the Government, such as the Crawford Study Group on Structural Adjustment, the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education, Training and Employment, and the current Myers Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia. In preparing the Government’s response to the Mission’s recommendations, I have sought the views of my State Labour Minister colleagues and the Australian Education Council, as well as the National Training Council and its network of industry training committees. I commend the report to the House. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Peacock) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the report of the National Training Council of Australia Study Mission. It reinforces many of the views which we have held and expressed in this Parliament over a number of years about the inadequacy of our manpower training and planning. The one great inadequacy in this report is that members of parliament were not involved in its preparation. Again I reiterate what I have said on many occasions, that whilst we send delegations overseas to attend Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences and Interparliamentary Union conferences and whilst we have committees in this Parliament dealing with a number of matters, and legitimately so, we have no direct access to the bureaucracy in terms of manpower planning in this country because the Government refuses to establish parliamentary committees on manpower planning. In this case it could perhaps have thought in terms of the ongoing debate on this matter about the involvement of parliamentarians as being part of the committee that did this study tour. All too often our trips abroad do not bring back this type of information.
I think it is important when looking at this report to understand exactly what the Training Council is telling us. Firstly, on page 7, paragraph 15 of its report it reinforces the view that our apprenticeship system in Australia is just not working. We did not need to send people overseas to tell us that, but obviously the Council’s views have been reinforced by its experience in visiting the United States, West Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada and it is now able to tell us that we will have to do something about the matter. I not only believe that we have to look very closely at the number of young people who would be available to undertake apprenticeships to fill the gaps in the vacancies which will exist in the skilled trades in future, but also I agree with the emphasis that has been put on the retraining of people already in employment that the mission came across through its investigation.
Of course, it was quite right in its report in placing emphasis on the relationship between training and employment. In relation to all of the countries that it visited it reiterated in its report the necessity to have the closest of relationships between what we are doing in a country by training and retraining and what we hope to do objectively in the area of employment. The Committee has come back with the recommendation that Australia has got to look very closely at training and retraining and at our total objective in relation to employment policy. In fact, in the Federal Republic of Germany, two bodies, the Federal Institute for Vocational Training and the Federal Employment Institute, have been created. They were linked through cross membership and by legislation. So obviously some countries are dealing with these matters in a far more sophisticated way than we are.
In relation to the Committee’s experience of the existence of skill centres, it is a part of its recommendation that this is something that we should look at urgently because, as the Committee says, apprenticeship training or training for the skills that may be required in Australia does not necessarily relegate itself to only those who are looking for their first jobs or those who are unemployed. It will, of necessity, be a responsibility for any government in this country to see that people in employment are retrained to take on the new occupations that will emerge in the industries in which they are already working. Skill centres that exist in Canada and the United Kingdom were inspected by the Commission. It says in its report:
They had been created because of gaps or inadequacies in the existing training system and attempted to overcome industry prejudices towards off-the-job training.
The Opposition has laid emphasis on what we believe to be the necessity for off-the-job training in this country. I think that a lot of members of trade unions in this country have already considered whether the emphasis should not be on a 35-hour week across the board but rather that, if less hours are to be worked in industry in this country, some of the hours which are taken off the working week ought to be put towards training and retraining of our present work force. None of us can predict with any degree of certainty the type of employment that is going to be available to the work force of Australia over the next decade. Skilled centres, the government funded training institutions that were witnessed by this Committee, are of just as much importance to Australia as they are to those countries because we are comparable in make up to those countries which this Committee considered. I would have thought that its recommendations and analysis of these resource centres were of enormous importance to us in Australia.
The one area which drew the attention of the Committee in these other countries- it is of identical importance in this country- was the identification of skills which are going to be in short supply. Just last week I think every member of Parliament received a letter signed by 25 nurses in a Sydney hospital who had just completed their training. One could have received the same letter from 25 teachers in most States. The fact is that, willy-nilly, we have allowed people to go into occupations, to do their training in various colleges and hospitals, when, with the slightest investigation, we should have been able to tell them that there would be no jobs available for the majority of them when they completed their training. We have to be able to identify in Australia, for the purposes of people doing a four or five-year training course, or less or more, whatever it may be, whether, in fact, the occupations for which they are training are going to be available when they complete their training. Monitoring of the work force is a very, very difficult task but it is something to which we are going to have to apply ourselves. I believe that one of the reasons why we are not able to do it is because we do not have the mechanisms within the government, or within a statutory authority outside of government and free from government, to tell us, as near as possible, what is going to be required. It is one thing to say that we are 10,000 tradesmen short a year in our training programs and that we are going to aim at bringing in 50,000 skilled migrants between 1979 and 1985; but Australia should be applying a lot more time and a lot more of its vast resources to determining which skills those 10,000 people a year should have and what we are going to require after 1985, not only in the manufacturing industry but in the services industry or in academia.
I would refer all honourable members to the Committee’s comments on a central training authority. It says that authorities have been established to advise the central government on training policies and programs in each of the four countries. A number of the features about these authorities should be noted. The Committee states:
Central training authorities in Canada, USA and the UK were responsible for employment as well as training policy development.
All authorities were established by statute as independent advisory bodies to Government and, except for the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, all functioned independently of Government Departments.
I think that we are going to have to debate whether this function is best accomplished by a government department or whether the experience of the countries visited by the Committee is something by which we could be guided. All authorities in these other countries had representatives of employers and trade unions on their controlling boards. Most also included government and education authorities. It seems to me to be imperative, considering the makeup of our economy, that when we are dealing with manpower programs and trying to monitor the work force we involve the largest of the pressure groups exercising their rights in the economy. If we do this we are then talking about three major parties, the Government, the trade union movement and the employers. This group has been expanded, quite validly and sensibly, to include education authorities. I would have thought, from the committees that we have had in operation in Australia quite recently looking at education and retraining, that an authority such as those working in most of those countries should be, at least, debated in this Parliament. We should decide whether Australia should follow the lead of these other countries visited by the Committee. The Committee also said:
Some authorities, in addition to their advisory role, had the responsibility to undertake executive action in the administration of programs- Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, the Federal Employment Institute (the Federal Republic of Germany) and Manpower Services Commission (the United Kingdom). The activities and administration of all authorities were totally funded by government.
I think that when people read this report and get to the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee they will see that it did not waste its time overseas. There is a lot to be learned in this concise report from what it observed overseas. I think it is important in laying down guidelines for what we should be discussing here. I would suggest to the Government that no longer should the role of parliamentarians be ignored in trying to reach decisions on this very important subject. If further working parties are to travel overseas and look at the mechanisms used by comparable governments, parliamentarians ought to be part of them. This Parliament ought to establish committees to look continuously at the manpower programs and requirements of Australia. Continued refusal by the Government to establish such mechanisms will only mean that the debate in this Parliament will continue to be inadequate and our policies in the 1980s will be just as inadequate as the policies of the late 1970s.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 6 November next, at 3 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
– I note that this House is not meeting at the normal meeting time on that Tuesday. I take it that this is because of a certain horse race that is conducted in the premier city of Australia. This illustrates a strange set of priorities. This House of some 120-odd people, some of them very odd, proposes to wait for three-quarters of an hour or thereabouts while people watch a team of horses flogged around a race track in Melbourne. People can go out into the party rooms and watch it on television. We can arrange for an historical record on video tape. We can even have the race shown on the wall of this chamber instead of watching the corrupt charade of Question Time. Question Time is corrupted sometimes because of the behaviour of some of the honourable members opposite.
I suppose that there is something symbolic about this Parliament waiting for a horse race to finish. I do not know how many horses will be in the race. Perhaps there will be 27 horses; which is something like the number in the Ministry. They will be galloping round a circular race track, going like the devil, being flogged and cheered down the last straight, madly competitive, running around in circles and getting nowhere. I can think of no more symbolic comparison to make with this Government. Perhaps I ought not to raise too much objection. We sit here day after day being gagged by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), in the course of his duty as a party hack for the Government. We complain bitterly that we cannot get any time to debate matters, yet we have time to delay the proceedings of the Parliament while people go outside the chamber to look at a horse race. I reckon that it is time we started to get our priorities straight. I think that the horse is a noble animal. I do not mind them galloping around race tracks. I think that they make a splendid spectacle on the screen. I believe that the technical achievement of televising the race is -
– Don’t call a division, that’s all.
– I have done that in the past, of course. I do not even know why we bother to delay the meeting time because honourable members are not in the House very often. As I said, I believe that there is something symbolic about this motion. The horses will not be getting anywhere; the race is competitive, it is speculative, it is non-productive and there could be no better comparison made than between it and this Government.
– I briefly support the remarks of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) on this matter. I think that it is a complete disgrace that we are required to remain here late at night- even until 1 a.m. It is more than an even bet that we will be required to meet late again between now and when the House rises. I think it is time that we got our priorities right, got down to governing this country, running this Parliament as it should be run and forgot about blooming horse races.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, could I have my dissenting vote recorded?
Order! The vote will be recorded if the honourable member for Wills desires, but I warn him that if he tests the pace of the House much further he could well find himself scratched.
Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 Mr Speaker has selected the matter which, in his opinion, is the most urgent and important, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Robertson, namely:
The Government’s stated intention to hand over to the States certain areas of responsibility for environment protection.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number qf members required by
– It has become clear during recent days that fears stressed earlier this year about the future of Commonwealth environment legislation are correct. The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is leading a Cabinet vendetta against environmental protection legislation. Together with his hatchetman, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), he has been proposing to amend Commonwealth legislation in order to exempt such major items as foreign investment from scrutiny under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and to hand over all responsibility for environment protection to the States, except that relating to Commonwealth projects. The campaign has been carried out behind a veil of Cabinet and departmental secrecy at the same time as the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation was publicly investigating the same subject.
On Monday, 22 October, documents came to light in newspaper reports which exposed the secret review to the public eye. Those who have read the documents could have come to the conclusion only that the Commonwealth was preparing to water down environmental controls and hand over virtually all its responsibilities in this field to the States. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) responded to these reports by denying that the Federal Government was going to water down the legislation. In a statement that was typical of the deception, deceit and doubletalk that has highlighted the term of office of the Fraser Government, he said in the next breath that all that was going to happen was that the Government would hand over to the States the responsibility for environmental matters- that is, all those projects for which the Federal Government has no direct responsibility. In other words, unless a Federal Government department is directly involved in building a project, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act will not be invoked. The Fraser Island sand mining, the Iwasaki development at Yeppoon and Alcoa’s bauxite proposals in Western Australia all would have escaped Commonwealth scrutiny.
Both the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in its report and the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) in his memorandum of 11 June, have stated that only one State, Victoria, has comprehensive environmental protection legislation. Obviously, Commonwealth legislation will be severely weakened if responsibilities are handed over to the States. Also, most States are without comprehensive legislation to deal properly with these matters. The environment would be the loser. The Deputy Prime Minister has stated that he would like to have environmental laws more simply administered than they are at the moment. I fear that his method of achieving this aim is simply to remove the applicability of the laws. The Treasurer seems to have a similar callous record in respect of the environment. He has said it is absurd that the Act covers foreign investment.
Yesterday morning’s Melbourne Age observed that even if there is foreign investment in the Rundle oil shale deposit, the project is likely to escape an environmental study. If the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister have their way, projects of national importance such as the Rundle project will be exempt from Commonwealth scrutiny. As a result, amendments foreshadowed by the Deputy Prime Minister would give responsibility for safeguarding the environment to that great environmentalist, the Queensland Minister for Mines and Energy.
– Ha! Your mate.
-I note the laughter of the honourable member for La Trobe. Queensland virtually obliterated what environmental protection it had last March by leaving individual departments free to make their own requirements.
– Did you note the laughter?
-I note also the laughter of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) who is at the table.
– Did you note your own laughter?
-Yes. I am laughing at the Minister’s big grin. He knows what I am talking about. The new procedures do not include public participation and environmental impact statements. If they are ever asked for, they need not be made public. The Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation made specific recommendations in relation to State and Federal participation in environment assessment. I quote the recommendations:
The importance of the recommendation on the need for uniform State legislation was illustrated by the paragraph which preceded those recommendations. It stated:
Victoria is the only State which has comprehensive environmental legislation although legislation is currently before the New South Wales Parliament and is in the process of being drafted in South Australia. There are no proposals for the introduction of legislation in other States. The Committee believes that the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 is the most effective means yet developed to ensure the broad examination of proposals and alternatives and to enable full community involvement. The Commonwealth should encourage those States without environmental legislation to adopt legislation similar to the Impact of Proposals Act.
The report goes on to state:
Until comprehensive legislation is introduced in each State the Committee considers that the Act should continue to be invoked for a wide range of proposals. Should the States adopt legislation similar to that of the Commonwealth, the Committee believes that there will still be instances -
I repeat that there will still be instances- when issues of national importance arise which warrant Commonwealth involvement
Clearly, the Committee looked at ways of improving the legislation, not destroying it. The Committee was able to produce a report to which all members agreed. The bipartisan nature of the Committee, with four Liberal Party members, three Australian Labor Party members and one National Country Party member, was complemented by the wide range of backgrounds of the members. There was a farmer, a pharmacist, an engineer, a businessman, a medical practitioner, a lawyer, a university lecturer, and a sociologist. That a consensus was reached by the Committee gives the recommendations in the report a credibility which could not possibly be matched by the Cabinet review with its backroom stealth and built-in bias.
A particularly disturbing point was disclosed in newspaper articles on 22 October, that is, the fact that some departments are actively seeking to emasculate the Act so that they can be exempt from its power. These are the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Resources, the Department of Finance, and the Department of National Development. These same departments were also reluctant to provide the Committee on Environment and Conservation with detailed evidence concerning the Act. In fact, the Treasury flatly refused to supply information to the Committee. Yet it is these departments which are involved in foreign investment ventures, such as mining, which obviously can have marked effects on the environment. The Treasurer, in a letter to the then Minister for
Environment, Housing and Community Development on 23 November 1978, said:
There seems to me to be no compelling reason for aspects of foreign investment to be subject to the EPA.
It would appear that that would allow any large foreign-funded development project to be subject to State scrutiny alone. Examples of this could be drilling on the Great Barrier Reef, de- ‘velopment of the Rundle oil shale deposits, or extensions to the Iwasaki development at Yeppoon and the alumina refineries in the Darling Ranges of Western Australia.
– They are not of national importance.
– They probably are, knowing the honourable member’s failure to worry about the environment of his State. But it does concern all honourable members in this Parliament if something happens to Perth’s water supply. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), who is one of the best members of this House, described the Treasury’s refusal to supply information as ‘getting very close to being contempt of this Parliament’. The Treasury seems to have a will of its own and it cannot accept any other department having a say in its actions. It therefore must carry out a crusade to gain exemption from the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. Just as its Minister has a blinkered approach to government, so too is the Treasury blinded to the long term social and environmental consequences of its policies. The question that the Parliament should ask itself is whether the Treasury is under the control of its Minister, or whether the Minister is under the control of the Treasury. If we continue to allow the Treasury to act as it has towards parliamentary committees we may no longer be needed since the Treasury would run the government.
The Committee was concerned about the blanket exemptions called for by the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Resources, so it included the following statement in its report:
While recognising that for the Act to operate effectively, some matters should be excluded from its coverage the Committee is concerned that the schedule could be used to severely limit its application. The Committee emphasises that the schedule should only include matters that are unsuitable for the impact statement technique and those matters for which it would be administratively impossible to apply the Act. The Committee further emphasises that the schedule should contain only specific proposals and not broad areas of government responsibility.
A memorandum, prepared by the Minister for Science and the Environment on 1 1 June this year for the Cabinet review, shows not only that other departments are attacking the Act but also that the Minister for Science and the Environment, who administers the Act, is finding ways to subvert the spirit if not the letter of the Act. He proposed to take environmental assessment out of the public domain. He stated:
The change would facilitate the ability of the Environment Minister to take action to conclude his environmental consideration of many proposals without having to resort to directing an impact statement and subjecting the matter concerned to public review.
The Minister knew that reducing the ambit of the Act was contrary to Liberal-National Country Party policy, which states: . . we will ensure in development projects, which are likely to have a significant and/or damaging effect on the environment and involving the Commonwealth, that Environmental Impact Statements are prepared prior to decisions having been made . . .
It seems ridiculous that the Minister should seek to change the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act so that no impact statement need be prepared, since in the past financial year only two environmental impact statements have been ordered. In 1976-77 and in 1977-78, 34 environmental impact statements were ordered by the Department. Since 1975, 3,230 proposals regarded as environmentally significant have been put forward, but only 50 of those proposals have needed environmental impact statements to be prepared.
– By the Commonwealth?
-That is right. The Standing Committee recommended: the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act be amended to require the Minister for Science and the Environment to provide, on request, details of the reasons for not directing an Environmental Impact Statement on particular proposals considered to be of environmental significance.
Obviously the Committee feels that a reversal of the trend away from environmental impact statement assessment is in order. The Committee stated:
The Commonwealth must retain power to deal with issues of national significance.
I have noticed that there have been lots of interjections from honourable members opposite who were members of the Committee. I find this rather surprising. I am supporting the Committee’s recommendations and honourable members opposite are attacking me for doing so.
– We are not.
– Honourable members opposite have been interjecting a lot during my supporting of those recommendations. Examples of such national assets are Fraser Island, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, south-west Tasmania, Kakadu National Park, the bauxite mines and alumina refineries in the Darling Ranges of Western Australia, which, as I have said before, have a major effect on water supply, forestry and energy usage in Western Australia, and the proposed Rundle oil shale development, which will need massive amounts of water and energy and massive capital investment. Does anyone suggest that the whole nation should not be concerned at the possible environmental effects of uranium mining at Roxby Downs? Most of the States can accept this concept and understand that the Commonwealth is not interested in interfering in every local issue. We do not want to see the Commonwealth investigating the erection of a toilet somewhere. We only want this legislation so that the Commonwealth can come in and play a role in a matter of national significance.
Unfortunately, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are not showing signs of introducing any legislation. I mentioned previously that Victoria had good legislation. New South Wales and South Australia are in the process of drafting such legislation. In April, Queensland took a step backwards, as I mentioned earlier in my speech. All States, except Queensland, made submissions to the Committee, and all of those States, except Western Australia, stated that the arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth were working well and they suggested no amendment to the Act.
The present Government has not shouldered its responsibility over many issues; rather it prefers to talk about co-operative federalism and consultation with the States ad nauseam. However, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act is a model for the States to follow in environmental legislation. If the Government were serious about State-Federal co-operation it would be pressing for uniformity throughout the States, of legislation which is complementary to the Commonwealth Act. The Commonwealth has a responsibility to provide a lead to the States and the Cabinet must not abrogate this responsibility by destroying the Act and reverting back to the dark days of the 1960s when the environment was up for rape and pillage by every form of development that was going on.
– I will be responding to a good many of the allegations made in the rather lack-lustre speech of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). I really wonder whether he had his heart in it. I listened attentively to what he had to say, and I was not surprised that he dealt with this matter in a rather off-handed manner, because when one reads the matter of public importance that he raised one sees that it is based on an entirely false premise. The subject that he has put up for discussion is ‘the Government’s stated intention to hand over to the States certain areas of responsibility for environment protection’. The simple fact is that the Government has not stated an intention to absolve itself from the area of environmental protection. The facts are quite to the contrary. This Government has a record second to none in the area of environmental protection. It is a record of which we are proud. It is a record on which we will go to an election, and we will invite the Australian Labor Party to contest that record with us at an election. This Government has made achievements in the area of environmental protection- not just nonsense, not just scatter.
– Why is it abandoning it?
– It is all very well for the honourable member to interject. The trouble is that when his party was in power it achieved nothing in the area of environmental protection. The honourable member for Robertson had the hide to boast about the Ranger uranium inquiry. He- said that the Labor Party set up an environmental inquiry into the mining of uranium at Ranger.
– I did not mention it once in my speech. Why don ‘t you listen?
-I ask honourable members to desist from interjections.
– The honourable member for Robertson boasted about the environmental assessment procedures and inquiries established by the Labor Government. At face value, that sounds a very commendable act. It sounds as though the Labor Government was adopting an open-handed approach to the whole question of uranium mining. What he did not tell the Parliament was that before the Labor Government instituted that inquiry it entered into a secret deal to use taxpayers’ money to buy 5 1 per cent of the Ranger uranium mine so that it could obtain the profit from it. I ask: Does a government first of all make an investment in a mining operation, then set up an inquiry into the environmental aspects of that mining venture, if its mind is not already made up that it is going to proceed with the mining?
The Labor Government put the taxpayers of Australia in hock to the extent of hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the Ranger uranium venture, yet the honourable member for Robertson has the hide to come in here and say: ‘We were very sensitive to the environmental issues of uranium mining.’ My foot it was sensitive to them! The Labor Government had made up its mind. It had put up the money, and that is the fact. Members of the Labor Party should not come in here and talk about the number of environmental assessment statements that were made by the Commonwealth. The honourable member for Robertson talked about 3,000 proposals which had been assessed, but not by the Commonwealth. I interjected and said that those very same proposals had environmental assessments prepared on them by the States.
– I said that too, if you listened.
-Now the honourable member acknowledges it. Why did he make it a debating point in terms of trying to criticise this Government? The fact is that the environmental assessments have been carried out, the Commonwealth has had access to them, and it has approved them. What this debate really amounts to is the way in which Government and Opposition members see the issue of environmental assessment. It is a question of where the overlap should be and the extent of duplication. The Federal Opposition appears to be saying that, no matter what happens in the States, an environmental assessment should be made for every proposal by the Commonwealth.
– We did not say that and you know it.
– That is effectively what the Opposition is saying. The honourable member for Robertson can interject.
– Do not misquote me. I did not say that.
– He is feeling guilty because he failed to cover these points in his speech and he has been caught out. I make no apology for saying that. His whole speech was an absolute pretence. He talked about the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. He is a member of that Committee and I am a member of it. It will be a shame for Australia, a tragedy for Australia, if there cannot be a bipartisan approach to the whole question of environmental protection and conservation. If there is one measure on which we ought to be able to reach agreement it is the question of environment and conservation. A committee of this House worked for a year or so to study the whole question. We came up with a report, which I think makes sense and which I commend to the House and to anybody interested in the subject. It was a report to which all members of that Committee, from both the Government and the Opposition, put their signatures. I think it is a disgrace that the honourable member for Robertson, who is the Opposition spokesman on the environment, should come into this House and try to drive a wedge between Government and Opposition on the question of the impact of proposals legislation, the very legislation that is being reviewed by the Government.
– I am demanding that you support it and I am opposing what the Government is talking about doing.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will remain silent.
– It is a tragedy. The honourable member for Robertson is culpable for driving this wedge between Government and Opposition and for trying to attribute remarks to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) which are quite unrealistic. The Treasurer is on record, both in Opposition and in Government, as having a sensitive approach to the question of environmental protection. Literally interpreted, the environmental impact legislation could be used to require an environmental impact statement on the Federal Budget. It could be used to require an environmental assessment statement on an element of Government financial policy. Does anybody in this House, or indeed in this country, seriously think that an environmental impact statement should be prepared on a Commonwealth Budget or on a statement that the Minister for Transport or any other Minister of the Crown might bring in? Such a requirement is clearly provided for, and it would be within the province of anybody who wanted to take a legal challenge against the Government of the day, whether it be Liberal, Labor or anything else, to require an assessment to be prepared on such matters. This was referred to by the House of Representatives committee of which the honourable member for Robertson is a member. In case the honourable member has not read it, at paragraph 89 of the report, to which the honourable member gave his support, the Committee said:
There is considerable potential for overlap between the Commonwealth and the States in environmental assessment.
There we have the nub of it. There is considerable potential for overlap, and indeed overlap and duplication has been taking place. Why should people in this country who are prepared to get off their backsides, make an investment and come up with a proposal, be put to the trouble of having first of all to report to the States, then to the Commonwealth, and then wait for the Commonwealth to talk to the States, and so on? Everybody knows that these procedures have been used in the past. Everybody knows what a devastating effect they have on development in this country, particularly development of employment opportunities. That is one of the reasons why not only Australians but also overseas investors take their business off-shore and make their investments elsewhere. It is the sort of thing that happened in the years of the Whitlam Government. Instead of creating jobs in Australia, Australians were creating jobs all through South-East Asia. We do not lend ourselves to that attitude. We are a government that is looking for employment and development opportunities for Australians in Australia. I invite the Opposition to join in and support that. Its silence is absolutely deafening.
The Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act also requires environmental impact statements to be prepared in respect of developments outside Australia. What an extraordinary situation! What Australian Government or political party would have the pretence to suggest that it should make an environmental impact assessment into development proposals in a foreign country? Only a socialist would regard himself as having that power.
– Do you call President Carter a socialist? He has made a statement exactly the same.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will remain silent.
– Where did it get him?
– He is the President of the United States, which is better than being the back bench member for Kalgoorlie.
-Order! The honourable member for La Trobe will resume his seat. The honourable member for Robertson has been cautioned on a number of occasions. The Chair has extended reasonable latitude to interjections but will no longer tolerate the defiance of the honourable member for Robertson. I warn him against interjecting.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have been very charitable to him. The only reason he has been interjecting is that he has been caught out in a worthless argument. It is typical of the Opposition’s whole attitude to the question of environmental protection and conservation. I referred earlier to who has the score on the board regarding achievements in the area of conservation. I would like now to refer to some of the things this Government has done.
We are proud of them and we will be going to an election, telling the people of Australia about them. What about the ban on the killing of whales? Which Government brought in that measure? It was the Liberal-National Country Party Government because we have a genuine feeling for the animals of this world. Why should whales be butchered for no sensible purpose? We instigated an inquiry and we banned the harvesting of whales, and not a day too soon. I ask honourable members to bear in mind that this Government brought in that measure. What about the establishment of the Kakadu National Park, the biggest and most diverse national park in the world? It is located in the Northern Territory.
– With a uranium mine.
– I hear grunts of support from my colleague. The Kakadu National Park is the biggest, most diverse and most interesting national park in the world.
– With a uranium mine.
– The honourable member for Lalor can ridicule this but he has not been there. He ought to get off his backside and go to the Kakadu National Park. It is an object lesson to see the measures that have been taken to eliminate the devastation that has taken place in any pastoral lease. I recommend a visit to the park by honourable members in this House and by all people in Australia. As to the measures taken by the Liberal-National Country Party Government to protect Fraser Island, Mr Deputy Speaker, I know that at the time you were very conscious of the decision that was taken and that you saw the logic and good sense behind that decision. I know that you were one of the members affected by that decision. I know how much you enjoy Fraser Island. It was the Liberal-National Country Party Government which ensured the protection of Fraser Island.
It is not a question of walking away from environmental issues. It is a question of introducing responsible, genuine and logical measures to ensure that the Australian environment is protected. We recognise that there is a role for State governments and a role for local government to play in this area of responsibility. We will not walk away from involving in the true spirit of federalism all tiers of government to see that they may all play their roles. That is why the Government completely rejects the claim made by the honourable member for Robertson in this regard. The honourable member cannot genuinely support the discussion on a matter of public importance which he has proposed today. He has been found out. The Liberal-National Country Party Government has the score on the board in environment protection and we are not going to walk away from that responsibility. That is an undertaking which I give on behalf of this Government.
Mr COHEN (Robertson)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I will be very brief, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do want to apologise to you for the interjections, but in the 10 years that I have been a member of this place I have never been so misquoted and misrepresented as I have been today.
– Don’t debate it.
-I will not debate it. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) raised three matters. He mentioned that I made statements about the Ranger inquiry. I did not mention the Ranger inquiry in the whole of my speech.
– Yes, you did.
-Not once. Secondly, the honourable member said I was trying to drive a wedge into the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. That is not correct. I was supporting the Committee’s recommendations. Thirdly, the honourable member said that I was demanding that the Government ought to become involved in every environmental issue. That is exactly what I said I was not doing.
-The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to obtain approval of Parliament for an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments to regulate the availability and pricing of sugar. The Bill now before honourable members contains the text of the Sugar Agreement 1979 and provisions to implement the Commonwealth’s responsibilities under the Agreement. The new
Agreement is the latest in a continuous series of sugar agreements which go back to the 1920s. The arrangements which have been developed under the successive agreements currently provide, in the Bill now before honourable members, that the Commonwealth Government prohibits the importation of sugar, golden syrup and treacle and the Queensland Government regulates production, acquires or purchases the sugar produced, supplies refined sugar and sugar products at nominated major population centres at not more than the prices set by the Agreement, and finances what are called the ‘domestic’ and export’ sugar rebates. The domestic rebate is paid to manufacturers of fruit products on sugar used if they observe certain requirements as to payment for their purchases of Australian fruit. The export rebate is payable to exporters when the costs of the Australian sugar content of their exports exceeds a notional import parity price for overseas sugar.
For many years the two governments and the industry operated without formal arrangements being provided in the successive Agreements as to the manner of adjustment of the domestic prices of refined sugars. The variations made at irregular intervals generally resulted from negotiations based on broad assessments of the industry ‘s position when it requested an increase. Among the elements often considered was the level of export returns.
The new Agreement, the Sugar Agreement 1979, as signed by me and the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, came into force on 1 October 1979. It differs from the former Sugar Agreement 1975 in a number of ways. The most distinguishable feature of this Agreement is the provision at clause 6 which details the formula agreed between the Commonwealth and Queensland and the industry- both canegrowers and sugar millers- for annual adjustment of the domestic price of refined sugar. In short, the clause provides that unless otherwise agreed between the two governments, annual adjustments will be made in the maximum price each season commencing 1 July 1980, taking into account both movements in the returns from exports of sugar and in the consumer price index. There is an in-built constraint that the proportionate change in the maximum price cannot exceed the proportionate change in the CPI. The effect of the formula provisions is to produce an anticyclical tendency in the resulting price adjustment. That is to say, domestic price increases will be constrained when export prices are rising and vice versa. But in any event any annual price increase will always lie between nil and the CPI increase.
The only maximum price to be stipulated in the new Agreement is that of IXD or manufacturing grade refined sugar, in bulk. This maximum price, as set down in the Agreement, that is, $353 per tonne for IXD or manufacturing grade sugar in bulk ex refinery, was earlier agreed between the two governments and the industry after consideration of the report and recommendations of the inquiry appointed under the auspices of the Industries Assistance Commission-report No. 209 of 31 March 1979. This is the base price for the purpose of the formula application commencing 1 July 1980. It contrasts with the maximum pricing provisions of the 1975 Agreement under which maximum prices for IXD and IA that is, grocery grade, in bags, were declared. Other sugars will now be priced proportionately to the IXD grade. Sugar will be made available at refineries and, as previously, at suitable centres in Darwin, Hobart, and Launceston instead of being delivered free in specified centres. Sugar may be delivered at the request of customers. This will thus permit them a choice of delivery arrangements. Terms and conditions of delivery will be determined by the Sugar Board in accordance with the Agreement. These changes were recommended by the Sugar Inquiry Committee. The maximum price for IXD grade in the new Agreement of $353 per tonne bulk is in line with the previous bagged price of $370 per tonne on the then free delivery basis. A price review committee, as proposed by the Inquiry Committee, is not required, as the price adjustment formula will operate simply and mechanically using publicly available information.
The export sugar rebate system will continue unchanged. The provisions of the Sugar Agreement 1975 relating to the payment of domestic sugar rebate have been retained, but there is an understanding betwen the two governments that the operation of this rebate will be reviewed within the term of the new Agreement. Under this Agreement the Queensland Government also agrees to fulfil those obligations undertaken by the Commonwealth in respect of export quotas, stockholding and stock financing, under the International Sugar Agreement 1977. As I have mentioned, this Bill is similar to previous Sugar Agreement Acts in that clause 5 provides that the importation of sugar, golden syrup and treacle into the Commonwealth, except with the consent in writing of the Minister or an authorised officer, is prohibited. This confirms a provision of the
Sugar Agreement, which provides for exceptions to the general prohibition. The Sugar Agreement Bill 1979 continues the series of Agreements between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, which have fostered the sugar industry, and at the same time ensured full and stable supplies of sugar at prices that are remunerative and just for Australian cane sugar producers and fair to consumers. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill amends the Defence Act 1903 to give the power to make standing appointments of officers to act as Chief of Defence Force Staff or a Service Chief of Staff during any absence of the holder of the relevant office. Legal advice is that such an amendment is necessary for this purpose. Standing appointments are necessary to ensure that officers are available to act in any unexpected absence of the Chief of Defence Force Staff or a Chief of Staff.
The Bill will also expedite the payment to members of the Defence Force of approved increases in salaries and allowances and other financial benefits. At present, salaries and allowances of members of the Defence Force are required to be prescribed in regulations made under the Defence Act 1903, the Naval Defence Act 1 9 1 0 and the Air Force Act 1 923.
The Defence Force is the only area of Commonwealth employment where all financial benefits are required to be prescribed in regulations. There are over 480 regulations. This requirement for the making of regulations has been and, indeed, continues to be a source of considerable delay in the payment of these benefits. This delay gives rise to problems.
No one should have to wait an inordinate length of time to have new or revised benefits paid. This is especially aggravating to the Defence Force, where frequent movement of members and their families is a feature of service life and there is a range of benefits provided in recompense. Adjustments to these benefits should be able to be paid quickly. Another problem is that substantial delays result in administrative inefficiency because of the need to maintain and keep up-to-date records of payments that cannot be made until the regulations are amended. Frequently this takes many months. A consequence of these problems is that the periods of retrospectivity which are inevitably involved attract criticism by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Attempts have, of course, been made to reduce these delays. Special arrangements have been made with the Attorney-General’s Department for statutory rules applying wage indexation increases to be drafted without delay. However, changes to the wide range of other financial benefits have to compete with the drafting needs of other departments. Another area of reform has been to replace separate regulations for each Service with regulations having tri-service application. However, such consolidations are necessarily a slow process because of the need to continue with day-to-day amendments and do not solve the problem of the extensive detail that has to be prescribed.
The Bill proposes to resolve these problems by empowering the Minister for Defence to make formal determinations of these financial benefits for members of the Defence Force. The Bill provides for the making of determinations to be notified in the Gazette and for the determinations to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament where they will be subject to disallowance, as is the present case with regulations.
I wish to make one matter clear. Nothing in the Bill is designed to alter in any way the policies governing the fixation of Defence Force pay and other financial benefits or the machinery by which fixation takes place. The making of a determination will usually require the repeal of the corresponding regulation. This presents procedural difficulties that would, until all the regulations were replaced, continue the very delays that the proposed scheme is intended to eliminate. Having regard to this problem and to the size of the task of replacing so many regulations, the Bill provides for an interim period during which the transition from regulations to determinations is to take place. The proposal is that the Minister for Defence, during the interim period only, will be authorised to amend or repeal such regulations by interim determinations. These determinations will also be subject to the procedure for notification, tabling and disallowance.
The Bill also makes formal drafting amendments to the Defence Act. The Naval Defence
Amendment Bill 1979 and the Air Force Amendment Bill 1979, which I will also introduce, will make amendments to the Naval Defence Act 1910 and the Air Force Act 1923, respectively, which apart from some formal drafting amendments, are purely consequential.
It is my belief that the revised procedures provided for in this Bill will not only speed up the payment to members of the Defence Force of changes in rates of, and other improvements to, financial benefits, but will also enhance the revision and consolidation of the existing law on this matter, a task which has hitherto been hampered by the regulation-making process. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
As mentioned in the second reading speech on the Defence Amendment Bill 1979, the purpose of this Bill is to make amendments to the Naval Defence Act 1910, which are consequential on those proposed to be made to the Defence Act 1903 by the Defence Amendment Bill. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
As mentioned in the second reading speech on the Defence Amendment Bill 1979, the purpose of this Bill is to make amendments to the Air Force Act 1923, which are consequential on those proposed to be made to the Defence Act 1903 by the Defence Amendment Bill. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The High Court of Australia Bill and the associated amendments to the Judiciary Act and the Evidence Act together represent a legislative scheme for effecting the transfer to the seat of government of the third arm of government established under the Constitution. Chapter III of the Constitution, which deals with the judicature, commences with section 71, which vests the judicial power of the Commonwealth in: a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia, and in such other federal courts as Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction. The High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice, and so many other Justices, not less than two, as the Parliament prescribes.
The Judiciary Act 1903, which provided for a High Court consisting of a Chief Justice and two other justices, included the provision: on and after a date to be fixed by Proclamation the principal seat of the High Court shall be at the seat of Government. Until the date is fixed, the principal seat of the High Court shall be at such places as the Governor-General from time to time appoints.
The other two arms of government, the legislature and the executive government, have for more than half a century now been located in the nation’s capital. Passage of this legislation will enable them to be joined by the High Court and so complete the plan envisaged by the framers of our Constitution.
Honourable members will, of course, be familiar with the progress on the building that is to accommodate the Court upon its transfer to the seat of government and will be aware that the official opening of that building has been set for May 1980. The movement to the seat of government of the High Court does not, however, mean that the Court will sever all its links with the States. Whilst the sittings of the Court will always be within the discretion of the Court itself, provision is made in the Bill enabling the Court to sit at such places within Australia and the external Territories as it sees fit. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has on a number of occasions publicly stated that it is his wish that the Court should periodically, as required, have sittings in at least the more distant
States. The occasion for the transfer has been taken to accord to the High Court a measure of independence from departmental control that reflects the special position accorded the Court by the Constitution. The Bill accordingly makes provision for the Court to manage its own affairs and to be responsible for its building, its staff and its financial arrangements.
The Bill contains an important provision relating to the constitution of the Court that embodies an undertaking given by the Attorney-General. Honourable members will be aware that, in accordance with his previously announced commitment to do so, the Attorney-General consulted with the Attorneys-General of the States prior to the filling of a vacancy in the High Court that occurred earlier this year. Clause 6 of the Bill contains the statutory confirmation of the Government’s commitment to that principle of consultation. By requiring the process to be undertaken whenever a vacancy on the High Court occurs, this provision should do much to ensure that the Court continues to be truly national in character and fully equipped to discharge its constitutional functions as a federal Supreme Court.
A further substantial change effected by the Bill flows from the transfer of the Registry of the Court to Canberra. In future there will be only the one Registry instead of, as there were previously, a principal Registry with district registries in each other State and Territory. There are, however, to be offices of the Registry in each State and the Northern Territory at which all documents associated with High Court litigation will be accepted for filing and transmission to the Registry in Canberra. So that practitioners will be inconvenienced as little as possible, provision is made that lodgment of a document at any office of the Registry is deemed to be lodgment in the Registry. Modern means of facsimile transmission and similar facilities will ensure that the new arrangements will cause no loss of efficiency in Registry procedures.
Although the Court is to manage its own affairs in all respects, formal incorporation of the Court administration has been considered unnecessary. For administrative convenience the Court’s powers are to be exercised through the officer heading its administration. For that purpose a statutory office entitled ‘the Clerk’ has been created and the legislation provides that he shall have ‘the function of acting on behalf of, and assisting, the justices in the administration of the affairs of the High Court and has such other functions as are conferred upon him
Clerk will, subject to the directions of the Court, perform all the usual activities of an employer, including the engagement and control of staff and management of property under the control of the Court and the administration of the funds appropriated for the purposes of, or donated to, the Court. As with all staff employed by the Court, the Clerk will not be subject to the Public Service Act. He will be appointed by the Governor-General for such period, not exceeding five years, as is specified in the instrument of his appointment, although he will be eligible for re-appointment, subject to an age limitation, at the end of that period.
In other respects the Bill makes little change to the existing provisions now found in the Judiciary Act and the High Court Procedure Act. The legislation has, however, been rationalised. Incorporated in this Bill are all the provisions dealing with the constitution and seat of the Court and administrative matters relating to the Court now to be found in the Judiciary Act and the High Court Procedure Act. The remaining provisions of the latter Act which are procedural in nature are to be incorporated in the Judiciary Act. In consequence, this Bill provides for the repeal of the High Court Procedure Act. Other changes are being made by this Bill but, in the main, they result from the application of modern drafting practices to the existing provision and it would be more convenient to discuss them at a later stage of the proceedings in respect of this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
As indicated in the observations I made in connection with the High Court of Australia Bill, the primary purpose of this Bill is to transfer from the Judiciary Act the existing provisions dealing with the constitution and seat of the Court, its registries, places of sitting and the like and to incorporate the procedural provisions formerly found in the High Court Procedure Act. In addition to a number of drafting changes necessitated by the re-arrangement of the legislative scheme, the Bill also makes one amendment properly described as substantive. That amendment is effected by clause 7 of the Bill, which relates to section 23 of the Judiciary Act.
Section 23 provides that, in the event of there being an equal division of the High Court upon the hearing of an appeal from a judge of the High Court or from a supreme court of a State, the decision appealed from is to be affirmed and that in any other case the opinion of the Chief Justice or the senior justice of the High Court present shall prevail. Accordingly, in appeals from all courts created by this Parliament, if there is an equal division of the High Court the opinion of the Chief Justice determines the outcome of the appeal. The effect of the amendment is to accord to judgments of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the supreme courts of the Territories, the same status as judgments of supreme courts of the States.
The amendments of a drafting nature, to which I have referred above, are the proposed new sections 77a to 77v which are, by clause 13, to be added to the principal Act. To facilitate consideration of those amendments, I have prepared a table showing the equivalent provisions in the existing legislation. Copies of the table are available for the information of honourable members. Finally, the Bill contains a number of transitional provisions made necessary by the new legislative scheme for the High Court. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, which completes the legislative scheme for the transfer of the High Court to Canberra, contains only two substantive provisions. The first relates to judicial notice of certain signatures and is made necessary by the changes in titles of the officers of the High Court. The second relates to Rules of Court made under the Evidence Act. This provision is designed to make it clear beyond doubt that Rules of Court made by the High Court under the Evidence Act are subject to disallowance by Parliament. The amendment arises from the expression by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal
Affairs of its view that the present wording of section 7S of the Evidence Act- which was inserted by the Amending Act of 1978- leaves it open to doubt whether Parliament has the power to disallow Rules of Court so made. This is not a matter on which there should be any doubt. Accordingly, although the amendment does not directly flow from the requirements of the new legislative scheme, it was thought desirable to take the earliest possible opportunity to rectify the situation. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
Similar legislation to this Bill has, in previous years, provided for specific purpose grants by the Commonwealth to the States in respect of government and non-government schools in the States. For 1980 this Bill includes, for the first time, grants in respect of government and nongovernment schools in the Northern Territory in addition to those in the States. Earlier this year the Schools Commission prepared two reports for the 1980 calendar year, one concerning schools in the States and the other concerning schools in the Northern Territory, which were tabled in Parliament on 30 August.
The Government accepted those recommendations of the Commission which responded to the guidelines for schools in the States, but agreed to a subsequent request from the New South Wales Government to transfer some $6m from its general capital to general recurrent allocations. However, the Schools Commission also included amongst its recommendations some concerning longer term funding arrangements which went beyond the guidelines for the next program year of 1980 with which this Bill deals. The Government will be considering these recommendations in the context of developing policy and financial guidelines for the Commission ‘s programs after 1980. In addition, the Government has decided that the Commission’s recommendations concerning school/work transition and youth policy will be looked at in the context of the Government’s ongoing consideration of possible initiatives in these areas. In reporting on the Northern Territory the Schools
Commission recommended that additional loadings should be applied to take account of higher costs in the Territory. The Government has not included these loadings in the approved specific purpose grants since allowance had already been made for them in general purpose grants made to the Northern Territory.
In the Bill, provision is made for the continuation in 1980 of the same programs that have operated under the present legislation for both government and non-government schools. The general resources programs are for general recurrent grants, including short term emergency assistance for non-government schools catering for country children, and building and equipment grants. The specific purpose programs are for child migrant education, disadvantaged schools and students in disadvantaged country areas, special education for handicapped children including children living in institutions, services and development and special projects. There has been a broadening of the provisions within the multicultural education program to provide for national level projects, to facilitate the program’s administration and to encourage schools to be more responsive to the multicultural needs of all children. The previous objective of fostering community language teaching will also be retained.
Provisions relating to the administration of the special projects program have now reverted to those existing for 1978 and previous years. This follows requests from the Government of Western Australia that such a change should be made. In the schedules to the Bill, schedules 1 to 10 give details of allocations to individual programs for 1 980 and are adjusted to June 1 979 prices, except for the non-government schools general recurrent and migrant programs which include some allowance for estimated future cost increases. The estimated cost of the 1980 programs, as supplemented, is $68 lm. The grants for 1980 will be further adjusted in subsequent legislation for cost movements to the end of 1979 and for increases in the salary and wage components of recurrent grants during 1980.
In relation to the 1979 programs in the States, Schedule 1 1 in the Bill reflects cost adjustments for the salary and wage components of recurrent grants from December 1978 prices to June 1979 prices. In accordance with established practice, the non-government schools general recurrent program also includes final provision for cost increases to the end of 1 979. The additional cost of these adjustments is $ 1 5m. Amending legislation will be introduced during the autumn 1980 sittings of the Parliament to finalise the adjustment of 1979 grants. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Relocation of Royal Australian Navy research laboratory to Pyrmont, NSW.
The proposal concerns the relocation of the Royal Australian Navy research laboratory from unsatisfactory accommodation at Rushcutters Bay to the Royal Edward Victualling Yard premises at Pyrmont. The works proposed include alteration and renovation of an existing eight-storey building to provide office space, research laboratories and workshop areas. The historical status of the building will be preserved. Construction of a perimeter security fence, gate control, official vehicle garage and flammable liquids store are also included in the proposal. The estimated cost of the proposed work when examined by the Committee was $2. 54m at February 1979 prices.
In reporting favourably on the proposed work the Committee recommended that the research laboratories immediate and long-term requirements should be satisfactorily resolved prior to its relocation following the completion of the work in late 1981. The requirements referred to relate to car parking and berthing services. These are already being processed and the Government is confident that the requirements will be resolved by late 1981. The Committee also recommended that every effort be made by the Department of Defence to advance the date for the transfer of the naval stores from the Royal Edward Victualling Yard to Zetland before the relocation of the Royal Australian Navy research laboratory. The Government has noted this recommendation and every effort will be made to advance this transfer. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 it is expedient to cany out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of crop adaptation laboratory, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Black Mountain, Acton, Australian Capital Territory.
The proposed work is for the construction of a laboratory building to provide facilities for the crop adaptation program being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Division of Plant Industry. The building is to be located on a site within the CSIRO complex at Black Mountain, Acton, Australian Capital Territory. The facilities will comprise laboratories, support areas and administrative accommodation and service areas. Special facilities will include built-in growth cabinets, constant and controlled temperature rooms and glass houses. Provision will also be made for car parking, landscaping and the replacement of several small structures on the building site. The estimated cost of the proposed work examined by the Committee was $2.8m at June 1979 prices. The Committee recommended construction of the work in the reference. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration and report: Rehabilitation of Radio Australia facilities, Cox Peninsula, Northern Territory.
This proposal is for the rehabilitation of Radio Australia facilities at Cox Peninsula, which were either destroyed or damaged by the tropical Cyclone Tracy in December 1974, with a view to allowing the resumption of full transmission service by the end of 1982. The proposal comprises:
Restoration of access jetty and new wharf head; repair and structural upgrading of buildings including services; provision of new staff accommodation; repair and replacement of submarine power cables; miscellaneous repairs to roads, fencing and engineering services; and replacement of transmitting aerials, associated transmission lines and switching facilities. The estimated cost of the proposal at September 1979 prices is $10m. I table drawings of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 23 August, on motion by Mr John McLeay :
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and the Ministers of State Amendment Bill 1979, as they are related matters. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as you have indicated, two Bills are the subject of this cognate debate. One is the Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1979 and the other is the Ministers of State Amendment Bill 1979. Let me say at the outset that the Ministers of State Amendment Bill merely adjusts a figure which was allowed by the Remuneration Tribunal and provides a lump sum for the Ministers of State. I make no particular comment about the Bill. If the Ministers who comprise the Executive Government have decided to accept that lesser amount, that is their prerogative. The point I would like to make though, is that generally speaking I think there has been quite a lag in the adjustment of thensalaries. I would have thought they would have been able to justify an earlier adjustment from the point of view of the work that Ministers in the national Parliament do, particularly in relation to comparable- or perhaps not so comparablework done in State parliaments.
I think every member of this Parliament has to spend a great deal of time in representing his electorate and if he has the responsibility of a
Minister or office holder of course he has a greatly increased burden. I do not think that the adjustment which was made by the Tribunal was untoward, but as the Ministers have made the determination as an Executive it is not for me to make any submissions on their behalf. Accordingly I do not propose to address any further remarks to that particular piece of legislation.
What concerns all of us is the Remuneration and Allowances Bill. We see that the Government has decided to alter the recommendations made by the Remuneration Tribunal. I think this is a bad precedent. It shows that the Government is prepared to intervene by way of Executive action as to what emoluments and other allowances it thinks should be paid to members and office holders. No matter how hard we try, once a government decides to do that a personality or personalities in the government decide to intrude into the legislation what they think is fair and reasonable. They have heard no submissions, they have taken no evidence. They might use a political judgment. It is always good political philosophy to suggest that politicians and members of parliament should work for nothing. That might attract a few more votes, although I may say that I have noticed in the 10 years in which I have been in the Parliament that people who talk that way generally do not last very long in the Parliament. Some tokenism has been exhibited as a political exercise.
What I would like clearly to indicate before getting into the details of the Bill is that the Labor Party has always felt that people should be paid in accordance with what is called work value. The Tribunal was created so that it could take evidence from everybody in the nation as to what he or she thought and then make a fair and impartial judgment of the submissions made to it and of the objections made to those submissions, so that we do not have a personality intruded in relation to what other people would think. It follows that there are very wealthy people in the Parliament who really do not need any salary at all. They can live off the independent means which they have acquired over the years. If that is their judgment, they usually say: ‘Others can do with so much less’. But that is not a fair analysis of our aim in this nation; that is, to attract to the national Parliament the best that is offering in the nation. That usually means people who are making their way in life and who have a lot to offer the nation in a number of particular capacities in which they have some skills.
Whether one is a medical practitioner, a science graduate, a school teacher, a trade union leader, a housewife or just interested in social sciences there are many contributions one can make from one’s own expertise and skill. In the process, though, there has to be acquisition of skill. There is a formative period in everybody’s life before he or she can really aspire to become a member of parliament. He or she will have to spend a fair bit of time acquiring skills which would suit him or her for other vocations in life. Many of those people, particularly farmers, those interested in tertiary advancement or in just the advancement of their fellow human beings, acquire this ability to represent others and put forward ideas. It would take them some time and effort to get to that position. If they did not come into the Parliament many of them would certainly make substantial incomes.
But we notice that the practice in this Parliament is to say: ‘We will be given a salary as determined by this Government, not by the Remuneration Tribunal and that has to be good enough. We are going to do it on the basis of disallowing some of the recommendations of the Tribunal’. I do not think it is good enough to have any interference. I certainly welcome the fact that in the ballot box people can make objections and pass judgments on others as to what their merits or otherwise might be from the point of view of general skill or from the point of view of their salary.
I put my case to the Parliament in another way. Anybody who is interested in a professional career, business advancement or just general advancement in life will not readily make it in a normal profession once he has decided to enter parliament. There is no doubt that it is virtually impossible in the normal context for a person who has been a member of this Parliament for a period which could range from eight to 15 years to go back to what would have been his normal profession, occupation or advancement in life. A hiatus occurs in one’s life which means that in the process of years one cannot really pick up or make amends for what one could have earned for one ‘s family in the normal course of progress. I put it to the House in simple terms: If a person wants to enter the Parliament at a relatively early age of 30 or 35 years, he has really to start to make his run in his late 20s or early 30s in order to be brought under notice. So whilst you might have acquired professional skill and be about to make your way in a particular area, whether it be a profession or normal business, you are not likely to be at the top at that particular age. But that is about the age you should start to aim for parliamentary honours. Having got into parliament one is going to spend a bit of time on the back bench learning the processes of this Parliament. So honourable members can see that in a 15-year career here one might really only have an opportunity to serve in the top positions, as a minister or an office holder, for a period of, say, eight years. So one does not get a lot out of holding that position for 15 years. It has been a learning process, a process of representing your party and its political philosophy and bringing it into effect if your party is fortunate enough to win government and able to represent the people.
But 15 years added to 30 or 35 years makes a person 45 or 50 by the time he might consider returning to a normal life. If you are a medical practitioner I would think you would be well out of season from the point of view of going back to that profession and picking up the reins. I think all my legal colleagues would say that they could virtually forget returning to that profession from the point of view of having some business goodwill left. If you had a business I do not see how you could maintain it. I remember Joe Berinson who used to sit here. He was a very well qualified pharmacist. He virtually lost the whole of his business because of having to devote his time to Parliament. There is no reward once one is removed or retires.
The point I am about to make concerns honourable members’ superannuation rights which are directly related to their salaries. If members’ salaries are kept depressed and downtrodden it means that the ultimate retirement benefit, accordingly, is not what one would have thought. I am not here to present any special brief for members of Parliament. They have to take the good with the bad. I am making the point that Executive action to prescribe what it thinks is fair and reasonable is not in accord with fact. I think it is wrong. I think that members of this Paliament often belittle themselves, and certainly make themselves less well remunerated than State members of Parliament, by accepting this sort of action. Both political parties have been guilty of this in the past. The present Executive is not exempt because this is what this legislation is about.
The Government has decided to disallow determinations Nos 6, 7, 8 and 9 made by the Remuneration Tribunal. It is doing this by way of this legislation. I have already made the point about what the Government is doing about the Ministers of State Act. It is altering the total figure by $25,000. But dealing with the specifics of these determinations, the Government is bringing in an Act of Parliament to alter an amendment. There is no evidence given as to how it sees the situation other than that it thinks it ought to be in accordance with what is called indexation. We have no objection to that. In fact, that is the submission of the Labor Party. Our submission is as the Commission recommended; that when everybody else’s remuneration is indexed that of members of Parliament should be indexed as well.
Honourable members can see that determinations Nos 6, 7 and 8 are, in effect extinguished by clauses 3, 4 and 5 of the Bill. If we look at those particular clauses we will see set out in clause 3 the remunerations that are going to apply to Ministers, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and others. In clause 4 honourable members will see listed the allowances that are to be paid to members of Parliament who are office holders. Then in clause 5 they will see the allowance to be paid to members of Parliament as determined by the Government. Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the disallowance of the provision in the Act which entitles either House of Parliament to disallow a determination within 15 sitting days. That provision is not to apply to these legislative determinations. Normally a determination was either allowed or disallowed within 15 sitting days. The Government has decided not to take any notice of that provision on this occasion and accordingly has altered the Act.
There is an additional amendment, proposed new section 5A. This seeks to alter determination No. 9 which relates to travelling allowances for shadow Ministers. I will have more to say about that in a minute. So honourable members will see in this Bill the mathematical determination made by the Government as to what it thinks people should be paid. I want to say at the outset that I think this Bill demonstrates the personal intrusion of the Executive if not the Prime Minister alone. Let me place on record that the Prime Minister has written a letter to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) indicating what the Government has decided. I would be of the opinion that it was the Prime Minister who had decided. I do not think it had anything more than that.
– It was the Government.
-The Minister says it was the Government. I think the Prime Minister has a particular point of view because in this letter to the Leader of the Opposition he said: ‘I am writing to let you know of the Government’s intentions’. The matters he wrote about were matters affecting the Opposition. Let us consider this question of gradation and the fairness and equality of reduction in allowances. I might ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I could incorporate in Hansard a table showing the allowances to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Leader of the House, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and other Ministers as now outlined in this Bill, the determination by the Remuneration Tribunal, the modified determination under the legislation and the percentage change. Honourable members will see in this table, which I will show to the Minister for Administrative Services sitting opposite and ask his permission to include in Hansard, that the Deputy Prime Minister suffers a pretty substantial reduction of 15.6 per cent. But I think it is significant that the Prime Minister suffers a reduction of 0.93 per cent. I will seek leave later to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
I want to come to the main thrust of what the Opposition feels ought to be considered. This Bill is important for much of what it omits. The Opposition notes that there is no attempt to redress the imbalance of resources between Government and Opposition as recommended by the Remuneration Tribunal. Let me refer honourable members to page 2 1 of the report of the Remuneration Tribunal where, in paragraph 35, it had this to say:
In the 1978 Review the Tribunal expressed the view that shadow Ministers should be provided with an additional member of staff, such staff member to be employed under the terms and conditions which apply to electorate assistants.
The Tribunal made the point that this recommendation was implemented only in part and continued:
We reiterate that we see a need for the additional staff as then recommended.
When the Labor Party formed its government in 1972 it increased the number of staff available to the Opposition. We did that on the premise that a strong democracy needed a strong Opposition and the Opposition had to have resources. The Prime Minister has spoken often about abiding by the umpire’s decision but I do not think he has done so in this case. He has spoken a lot less frequently of democracy and the elements required to strengthen it. Instead of giving the Opposition what the Tribunal recommended in 1978 the Prime Minister decided to give us half on the basis that half was better than none and we would have to accept that. Honourable members will notice that in 1979 the Tribunal reiterate the need for additional staff as previously recommended. We make the point that if the decision does not suit the Prime Minister he disregards it. He again has refused to meet that recommendation. It comes as no surprise to see that he can make decisions which indicate his personal view. While the Minister intrudes and says it is the Government’s view, I would be very surprised if it went into the detail that I am adverting to here.
In 1976-77, for example, the Fraser Ministry was served by a personal staff of 143. The Opposition shadow cabinet had a staff of 31. In 1977-78 the number of ministerial staff went up to 193 from 143 and the Opposition’s staff went down from 31 to 28. Last year, after allowing us half what was suggested, we were able to employ 41. However, there were 197 Government office holders. The Prime Minister, not to be outdone, created a few extra positions. They include the Government Information Unit, comprising four people, the Government Parties Support Secretariat, comprising five people and another small service group under the title of State Coordination Officers, numbering six people. Each of these three units has had further staff increases in the current financial year.
Let us look at the result. The estimates for personal staff” this year, counting those services are 217 positions for the Government and 44 positions for the Opposition. This personal staff” imbalance occurs on top of the fact that the Government is served by the massive administrative machinery of the Public Service and the various departments. The unfair weighting is illustrated by comparing salary levels. The total salary for the 217 Government staff members is $3.5m.
If honourable members averaged out that figure at about $17,377 for each position they would be about right. The Opposition’s average annual payment is about $2,000 less for each position. This difference is pretty significant. It means in the first instance that the field of applicants for most jobs that become vacant is naturally attracted to the Government positions because they pay more. Secondly, it has meant in a number of cases that people with superior qualifications who could command a higher salary with a far less stressful lifestyle elsewhere, have had to make considerable sacrifices in order to contribute to the better government of this country.
The Prime Minister has always been anxious to deny what he calls wage justice. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) says the same thing, that one must not have the same sort of basis for wage fixation which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is proposing. The Prime Minister does not worry too much about it. If we look at his personal power base, we see that he has a super department which now intrudes, as a matter of course, into almost every area of government. His own office, which has been described as taking on the White House look, seems to be creating a propaganda network which has been set up under a number of mundane and misleading titles. The so-called Government Information Unit is a political rather than a public service operation. It has been created for one purpose only, to try to improve the image of the Prime Minister. It is headed by a senior journalist who receives a salary of $30,000 a year, higher than that received by members of Parliament. The senior journalist is assisted by another senior journalist on a salary of nearly $25,000 a year. There is also a research assistant receiving a salary of $20,000 a year.
The same assertion is true of this State Coordination Officers group. Two additions to that unit this year will bring its strength up to six senior journalists. They are supposed to be fulfilling a public service function. If that is so, it is rather extraordinary that the Tasmanian coordination officer is not based in the capital, Hobart. No, he is to be found in Launceston, which is the home of the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). Where is the Tasmanian co-ordination officer working from? He is working from the Minister’s office. Given that the Minister needs as much help as he can get, it is commonly accepted in the Press Gallery that the Tasmanian officer is, in fact, an additional Press aide to the Minister. The description of the third new propaganda wing of the Government sounds reasonable. The estimates of the Department of Administrative Services describes the Government Parties Support Secretariat as providing secretarial assistance for government parties’ committees. Of course, there has been no suggestion that the Opposition’s caucus committees might equally be entitled to that kind of support, nor would any request for that support be entertained if we look at what has happened in the past.
In fact, part of the function of the Support Secretariat is again to advise on media relations. It reportedly has taken over a number of functions of the Liberal Party secretariat. The estimated cost in salaries of these three services this year alone is $251,000. As public criticism about the role of the Government Information Unit has grown- that it is another propaganda arm of the Government- the Prime Minister has been at pains to distance himself from the Unit. Its head is technically paid by the Department of Administrative Services. But according to recent Press reports, the head, whom I do not want to name! answers directly to the Minister for Industry and
Commerce (Mr Lynch), who chairs the Government Public Information Committee. In other words, it is a publicity unit for Ministers. The head of the group has been quoted as saying what his job is. He has said: ‘I am a Press secretary to 27 Ministers’. He also oversees the six State co-ordination officers.
If the Government Information Unit is a public service operation, as the Prime Minister would have us believe, it is hard to reconcile that claim against some of the Unit’s activities. According to the current edition of the Laurie Oakes Report, the head of this Unit participated in a meeting last Friday of State and Federal Liberal Party publicity officers which was arranged by the Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Mr Tony Eggleton. It should be of concern that at a time when I understand that a limited number of members of the Press Gallery is accommodated in Parliament House because of severe overcrowding and the relocation to other premises of some staff members of the Parliamentary Library is also currently being considered for a similar reason, the Government Information Unit is already partly accommodated in Parliamentary offices. It has already apparently got itself ensconced into the Senate side of the building, in room M30. It should also be remembered that the whole propaganda network was established after a recommendation from a special consultant, Mr Keith Sinclair, a former editor of the Age newspaper. His principal job was to review the Government’s public relations. Mr Sinclair has been a consultant to Cabinet for two years.
The Prime Minister’s personal staff is also impressive. He has just created a new presidential style position of Chief of Staff, which has gone to a very learned and distinguished Australian who occupies a status just below that of a permanent head of a department. I have no objection to the man but every objection to the sort of office creation that is going on to assist the Prime Minister. There is also a senior private secretary, a private secretary, two personal secretaries, three Press secretaries, a senior advisor, two advisors, a private consultant and another ministerial officer. That is not a bad brains trust for a man who accused the last Labor Administration of having too many ministerial staff. I do not argue against the fact that obviously there has been a need for some increases in the Government’s ministerial staff allocation to deal with the complexities of office. But let this be done on the basis that the overwhelming importance surely should not be for Ministers to make decisions without being able to cope with the quality of giving benefits to others. That includes other Ministers and members of the Opposition, because it creates a double standard. The Prime Minister is out there in a class of his own because in my view, despite what is said, he has made these decisions. He has a predeliction for a personal indulgence, yet we have austerity demanded from others. His own Department has been quite dramatically built up while others have been virtually wiped out.
The Government’s personal staff number continues to build up while the Opposition staff is limited. That is against the recommendation of the Remuneration Tribunal. We are not talking about a desire to have sophisticated propaganda units, but of the need for the Opposition to give some sense of fairness to the democratic process, to have adequate resources for research and to inform and assist the Opposition in an analysis of the Government’s policies. That is a fundamental thing. If the Prime Minister denies that, he is travelling down the same road as is travelled by reactionary Premiers in Queensland and Western Australia about whom he would know a little. In those States the Premiers decide what the Opposition will get Their decision is usually nothing because they want to restrict the assistance as much as possible.
Having made those general comments, honourable members will notice that the Bill is disallowing twice-yearly indexation of parliamentary salaries as recommended by the Tribunal. I think it has been suggested that the Government will be able to use that as an example so that the rest of the wage earners in Australia will get less. It will be said that we are setting an example. If honourable members look at the factors in the cost of wages, they will find that what the wage earners in Australia are getting now is no greater in comparison with what they were getting in the 1950s. This myth has developed. The Treasurer said yesterday: ‘Even though you are paying more for your petrol, I will not allow that to be considered in any wage indexation claim. It is something you have to endure because of the import parity price ‘. But as was pointed out by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), the import parity price applies on something that we produce here at a much lower price than the import parity price. Seventy-two per cent of our petroleum comes from Bass Strait, not at the world price but at a cost which the Government has decided to tax. The Government is arguing that it has to keep wages down even though its taxes are going up. I am astounded that members of the National Country Party are not on their feet arguing about the effect on people in country areas of having to pay taxes through the petrol bowser. It will be said in argument before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that members of this Parliament are not seeking twice-yearly indexation; that we want indexation to occur only once a year and we do not want as much as normally we would get. That is the thrust to the people of Australia of this tokenism.
The Prime Minister and the Government have decided, most unfairly, not to allow the front bench members of the Opposition- the shadow Ministers- to claim a travelling allowance for overnight stays once those stays exceed 40 in number in a year. There are 20 front bench members of the Opposition trying to match the 27 Ministers of the Government. The Government is saying: ‘You can have 40 overnight stays each ‘; but that is not enough. We have to fly all over the nation. We have to try to match the Government, whose Ministers are entitled to unlimited travelling allowance. The front bench members of the Opposition are to be limited to 40 overnight stays each because the Prime Minister has so decided. If that is the issue, why not restrict it to 20 overnight stays?
– It was 20.
-It was 20. Why should it be anything at all? How can the Government say that it should be limited to 40 if, in the course of making a submission to a tribunal, we were able to adduce evidence to the effect that it should be unlimited? Most of the time we are here serving the Opposition and the rest of the time we are out trying to match the Ministers, with all the information that they have available to them, as to the expressing of an alternative point of view. I think that the Government has acted very unfairly indeed. The Prime Minister took delight in writing a personal letter to us telling us what would be done. He signed the letter: ‘Yours sincerely, Malcolm Fraser’. He wrote it to us just to let us know what is to happen. I have made all the points that I want to make. The Government will not agree to them, but they are on record. I hope that other members of the Government will look at how they themselves could be downgraded if Executive action of this type is allowed to operate. I assure all honourable members that it is not the Australian Labor Party’s policy. It should always be done on the basis of what a remuneration tribunal decides will be implemented. That is the impartial way to do it.
In the few minutes that I have left I wish to deal with one other matter. I want to draw the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) to a mistake that has been made. I do not think that he can do a lot about it because, apparently, once a mistake has been made a determination is deemed not to have been made. The mistake relates to party whips. If one looks at paragraph 14 on page 63 of the report of the Remuneration Tribunal one will notice that there is provision for a travelling allowance to be paid to the Government Whip, the Opposition Whip and the third party whip in the House of Representatives. I have been asked to raise this point. It seems as though the Opposition Whip in the Senate has not been given any allowance. There seems to have been an omission in that regard. Perhaps the Minister will look at that and take it into consideration.
– The Government Whip hasn’t either.
-The Government Whip has no allowance, either. Obviously it is an administrative error. I do not know whether anything can be done about it. The Opposition will not be raising any protest because it is of the opinion that there has been some slip in the preparation of the report. Those are the matters that I wished to bring before the House. They are not matters on which we will be dividing the House. I have expressed the Opposition’s view. We recognise that a government can do what it likes. If the Government legislates in this area we can only express our opposition. We have made our point in regard to the staff discrepancy. The Opposition would like to think that in future recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal, particularly after submissions have been made to it, will be adhered to. If Malcolm Fraser or anybody else wants to make a submission he should do so to that Tribunal. He should not come into this Parliament, as the person with all wisdom, and say that it will be decided by legislation what is to happen. That is a bad situation. I do not think that this procedure is followed in any other parliament in Australia. One should not allow intrusions by such personalities to affect the rights of people.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I omitted to ask for leave for the incorporation in Hansard of the table to which I referred earlier. I seek the leave of the House to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
-This is the first occasion since 1973-74 that alterations have been proposed by a government to determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal, although on two previous occasions the implementation of a determination was postponed and on another occasion a determination was totally disallowed. So this is an important occasion. Speaking on behalf of many supporters of the Government, certainly on behalf of the committee of which I am chairman, I am not happy that the determinations are to be amended but accept the proposition that that will be so. It is not particularly easy to stand in this Parliament and speak in respect of the salaries and allowances of private members and senators. It is always fair game for the community, particularly for those in the community who write Press articles, to categorise politicians as rapacious hunters who are after everybody’s resources. I hope to be able later to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows that that is not a true or correct statement for the Commonwealth level of government.
There are two Bills and a foreshadowed amendment before the House. The Remuneration and Allowances Bill modifies a number of the determinations of the Tribunal. An amendment to that Bill has been foreshadowed in terms of the travelling allowances for Opposition shadow Ministers. There is also a Bill to amend the Ministers of State Act 1 952. Under that Bill it is intended to raise the amount which is available for Ministers of State by some $20,000-odd. Honourable members might ask: Why does one stand here and make these comments if they are not in defence? That is a fair proposition. Last night I was looking through a book in the Parliamentary Library. As all honourable members know, there are lots of books in the Library and there are always books of humorous quotations and jokes. If honourable members look through any of them they will always find a number of pages given over quite easily and quite readily to jokes concerning politics and politicians. Politicians wear that. It is part of the game; it is part of the business. But on occasions the truth has to be told as to what is the position. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) spoke about the people who are elected to this place. Some of the honourable members who come to this place have enormous talent. Some of them have been leaders in their professions in the community.. Having been here for anything in excess of six years it is almost impossible for them to recapture a professional or skilled position. I recollect what happened in the 1960s to a medico who became a member of this House. I refer to a former honourable member for Bowman, Dr Wylie Gibbs. He was an extremely talented heart surgeon. In that area he was amongst the leaders in Australia. During his six years in. this place he lost his skill in that area. He was not in touch with it to the extent that he would have been.if.he had not been a member of parliament. After his defeat in this place he did not go back precisely to his previous calling. He still functions as a medical practitioner, but some of the skill which he would have had to indulge in weekly in order to. remain in that area of medical life was lost to him. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) would acknowledge that. The people who criticise members of parliament sometimes forget those facts. If the use of a skill is not able to be demonstrated here it can be lost. Members of parliament deserve to be looked upon in that way. The return which they obtain by way of remuneration and allowances ought not to be totally ignorant of that.
I propose to seek leave to incorporate a table in Hansard. I have obtained the permission of the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to do so. This table compares the movements since the middle of 1974 of the salaries and wages of members of the Federal Parliament with those for other sectors of the community. We could choose any time. Were we to go back to 1960 the movements would be the same, but we have to start at some time and the middle of 1974 was the occasion on which there was a postponement for seven or eight months of a salary rise. The House will remember that occasion. The table shows quite clearly that on any indicator whatsoever- I am concerned only with private members and senators; Ministers and others can take care of themselves- the movements for private members and senators have been the smallest detected for any section of the community. I make this point not by way of complaint or whining or whingeing but merely to make the facts known.
The table I wish to incorporate in Hansard I have used for a number of years in presenting evidence to the Remuneration Tribunal. I will outline to the House a few of the figures which I think are important. From June 1974 to October 1979 average weekly earnings increased by 80 per cent to 83 per cent, depending on whether they were seasonally adjusted. The consumer price index increased by in excess of 80 per cent in that period. The increase in weighted average minimum weekly rates of pay for males and females, Federal, and for males and females, State, varied between 78 per cent and 95 per cent. The increases for the various divisions in the Commonwealth Public Service varied from 49 per cent to 55 per cent. To the present moment, the movement for a private member or senator, including the amounts provided in this Bill, has been 37 per cent. It cannot be said, on any measure whatsoever, that private members of Parliament and senators have been leading the community in terms of grabbing what is inappropriate for others. Because of the position I occupy as chairman of the Government members conditions committee -
– The best chairman they have ever had, too.
-Thank you very much. Very often, after the Tribunal publishes its report, I am besieged by journalists who say: ‘You are getting too much. You are grabbing too much. Look what others are getting. You are bleeding the rest of the community’. There is one very simple answer to that, and I know that I will not get a good line in a newspaper after I say this. The answer is to recite the movements that have taken place over the period in the various journalists’ awards and then go through their current log of claims before either a Federal or State arbitration commission. That is the end of the argument. No other argument can be made. I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) saw that done on some occasions. I am asking that this table be incorporated in Hansard for only one reason, that is, to make known the actual position, to sweep away the cobwebs and let some light into areas where sometimes there is a deliberate amount of obfuscation. I will also include a table which has been developed by others showing the movements in academic salaries throughout Australian universities. They have done very well. Their salary movements over the same period have varied between 68 per cent and 87 per cent, approaching 90 per cent. I say merely that the House and the country ought to know this.
Finally, Federal private members and senators, in having condemnation heaped upon them by the community, are often confused with State upper and lower House members of Parliament. This varies between the States. I will not make any comment upon them, but I end by saying that if justice is to be done in this area the position of Federal members of parliament should not be confused with that which applies to State members, and I imagine that State members of parliament would not want to be confused with us. I have stated the position the committee felt it was in. We accept the decision that has been made, and I am sure that the Bills will pass the House.
-The honourable member foreshadowed his intention to seek leave to incorporate a document in Hansard. Does he wish to do so formally now?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek leave to incorporate the tables in Hansard.
The tables read as follows-
-I would like to make a few points because this is a fairly critical debate. As the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has pointed out, for the first time the Government has taken a Remuneration Tribunal report and changed some of its substance by legislation. One of the depressing features of the deliberations of the Tribunal is the creation of a continual discrimination, one might say, between members of this Parliament. We are elected as a Parliament of equals. Insofar as we represent people, the honourable member for Wills represents people in the same sense as does the right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and he ought to have at his disposal the same resources as the right honourable member for Wannon to carry matters into substantive action. I exclude from that the positions people hold in an executive capacity as Ministers conducting the affairs of this country.
Looking at what is happening with the Tribunal, we find that there is increasing disparity in the resources available to members simply as members. I might define this as a son of new feudalism. It starts at the top with the Prime Minister, who we might say is the king of the kingdom, and goes down through the various parts of the hierarchy, until it comes to the serfs at the bottom, which includes some of the people I see around me- my colleague from Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), my colleague from Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), and so on, who have no extra resources whatsoever. We are on the base rate, and I want to say something about that. At the moment there are people in this place who get special resources because they are Ministers. There are people who get special resources because of their positions in the Opposition. There are the Speaker, the deputy speakers, the chairmen and deputy chairmen of committees, and so on. There are the Whips, and then there are the people who get special resources because of the area of their electorate. If it is of a certain size they get money for charter flights and so on. A senator gets money for charter flights to enable him to move around the country. The chairman of one of the standing committees has some special facilities and resources available to him. If a member is on the front bench of the Labor Party some special resources are made available to him. These include such matters as staff, travel rights, allowances and, in the case of Whips and Ministers, for example, postage.
We all do the same job. I sit or stand, whatever one does, on *he Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and I work pretty hard at the job. Wherever I am needed I go. If I go as a member of the sub-committee I get my travelling allowance. If I have to go independently to do something for the Committee, I go.
– What about Shipway ‘s boat?
-That is right. I am in the ludicrous position now where, when I go with one of my colleagues from this side of the House to the Kangaroo III exercise, for example, because my colleague is on the front bench he will get travelling allowance; I will not. I have been in that position in various instances. That is the point I wish to make. There is also a question of staff. I happen to represent one of the larger electorates in terms of population.
– Not as big as mine.
-We do it very well, of course. Some seven or eight electorates have populations of over 120,000, of which Wills is one. Others are Melbourne, Hotham, Werriwa, Sydney, Prospect, Dundas and so on.
– And Lalor.
-And Lalor. If the people in those areas were not people but sandhills somewhere in the bush, the member would get an extra allowance for travelling and perhaps an electoral allowance. In my own case, there is no way in which I can maintain one of my staff members here in Canberra and so neglect the needs of the people of Wills. Time after time the Tribunal has said that there ought to be staff in Canberra. It has become a bit lukewarm on that issue lately, but I think it is a must. There is no way in which we can keep in front of the administrative requirements. With some of my colleagues I have had a look at West Block, I think it was, and the Kurrajong, and there is tons of space. I suggest that the Minister now take the opportunity not only not to leave this Tribunal but also to get a group of members together to see exactly what we need in these areas. As to salaries and so on, I leave that to the people who determine them. I do believe that the resources available to members have to be upgraded if we are to compete successfully in a society which is becoming increasingly complex, otherwise this Parliament will become increasingly irrelevant.
– I will be very brief because the Government wishes to pass the Appropriation Bills tonight. I appreciate that it has a big job ahead of it in doing so. I would like to place on record my views on the Remuneration and Allowances Bill. Firstly, I am concerned that the Government is proposing to vary a decision that has been brought down by the Remuneration Tribunal. We say that we believe in the freedom of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to bring down decisions, and that all concerned should abide by the decisions of that tribunal. I think that we as a government and as a parliament should abide by the decisions of the Tribunal which was set up to determine salaries and conditions for members of parliament. Once we start altering their decisions we will ultimately break down the whole basis on which this Tribunal was set up. The Labor Party, to its credit, established this Tribunal. It is one of the things that was good which Labor did in its time in office.
Secondly, I am concerned that the extra staff for the Opposition as recommended by the Tribunal is being reduced. I think any fair-minded Australian would agree with me. I am not talking about some of the people in the Press Gallery who are quite happy to get increases themselves but oppose better conditions for members of parliament. I suppose members of parliament are fair game to bait in respect of extra staff or enhanced conditions. We should seek to get the best out of members of parliament for the benefit of the parliament and our democratic system of government. One way this can be done is by giving to the Opposition facilities to obtain information, adequate staff and an equal right with Ministers to travel in Australia to put the Opposition’s point of view. As was said earlier, Ministers have the Public Service behind them and all sorts of information is provided to them. But we want an Opposition that is provided with as much information as Ministers so that it can represent the alternative point of view to the Australian people. Therefore, I am not happy about the Government’s restricting to such an extent the number of staff made available to assist the members of the Opposition front bench in their work.
I can remember the days when back benchers had great difficulty in getting a car to go about their duties. We used to be able to get one car from the airport at the beginning of the week and one car to the airport at the end of the week. If a member had to go back to bis electorate in between times to carry out some of his electoral duties he had to get a taxi from the airport in his home State and pay for it himself. Fortunately, that is no longer the position. We do not want to return to those days. I do not want to say any more because, as I have said, the Government has a big program to get through today. But I do want to place on record that I am opposed to the Government varying a decision of the Tribunal which, after all, was set up to determine conditions and salaries for members of parliament and to take these matters out of the hands of the politicians themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I seek leave to move together the amendments circulated, I think yesterday, in my name.
The purpose of the amendments is to retain a limitation of 40 overnight stays on the payment of travelling allowances to shadow Ministers when travelling in that capacity. The travelling allowance, in addition to that payable to senators and members, was first introduced for shadow Ministers in 1976. At that time a limit of 20 overnight stays was prescribed. This limit was raised in 1978 to 40 overnight stays.
– I will not delay the Committee but I feel very strongly that we have to oppose the proposed new clause not only because of its content but also because when we appeared before the Remuneration Tribunal earlier this year it was put to us that we did not oppose the changes to the Tribunal’s recommendation the time before, either on the part of the Opposition or on the other side of the chamber. That in itself was taken to be a degradation of its standing. It was said that having gone before the Tribunal, the Tribual having made certain determinations and a decision being taken that changes should be brought in, we should have voted against them. Members of parliament are put in a very difficult position when their conditions are proposed to be reduced from those which have been determined by the Tribunal because the whole of the Press will have a go at us if we start voting against a determination. I am sure that all honourable members in this place appreciate that point. You, Mr Deputy Chairman, made an excellent point a few minutes ago when you spoke in the second reading debate.
I want to make a strong point, and I am prepared in a sense to go out on a limb in support of this point. Having been a medical practitioner for quite a few years before I became a member of this place nobody is likely to suggest that I could not be making more money now as a medical practitioner than I am making as a parliamentarian. I challenge any journalist or media person to say otherwise. I do not think even the people who try to underestimate medical practitioners’ income significantly would argue that the average medical practitioner does not make more than a parliamentarian. I do not have to pretend that a parliamentarian’s salary is terribly impressive.
There are two points on which the Government proposes to knock us back. One is an abn.trary ruling made last year by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was determined in 1978 that there should be one staff member for each Opposition shadow Minister with a maximum of 27, which corresponded with the number of Ministers at that time. So we were entitled to 27 extra staff members. The Prime Minister quite arbitrarily wrote a letter to us saying that he would not allow this and we could have 10. We did not fight. I felt we should have fought about it. However, I do not necessarily carry the numbers on my side of the chamber either. This year the Government is introducing changes in the Remuneration and Allowances Bill which it had not even thought through. The Government is proposing to reject one of the determinations which states that a senator or member who is a shadow Minister may, when travelling outside his electorate in the performance of duties or functions connected with his office of shadow Minister, be paid a travelling allowance. The Government wants to restrict payment to not more than 40 overnight stays per annum. The Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay), who is sitting at the table, has given no reason for that amendment. I would be interested to hear the reasons. I am one of those people who do not like travelling. I hate aeroplanes, so it does not affect me because it is very doubtful that I would have 40 overnight stays in any one year if I could possibly avoid it. But it probably does apply to other people and often it applies to people who do not have an excess of money. I think it is wrong to impose these sorts of conditions on members when they are not imposed on Ministers by the same Government.
Let me get back to the question of staff. Some members of this House are reasonably well off but there are many who have only one income, the income that they get from Parliament. I think all of us would agree, without knowing the details, that the Prime Minister is one of those who probably has significant income outside his parliamentary salary. Good luck to him. But the danger involved in not providing adequate staff facilities and so on for the Opposition and for any other members of parliament who do not have an extra income is that money will be taken from other sources in society. Members may accept benefits, whether they be travelling or staff benefits, from very questionable sourcesfrom people who obviously want to influence a member’s final decision. As I said earlier, the Prime Minister cannot be considered to be one of the poor people. Yet the Prime Minister, when he was a shadow Minister in this place, accepted aid from Keith Compton Gale, who provided that aid on behalf of Gollin and Co Ltd. We all know that Gale provided that aid in the years between 1972-1975 to enable the present Prime Minister to draw up his policies when he was shadow Minister for Labour. I will not repeat all of the charges laid against Keith Compton Gale, but I will quote a newspaper account of some of them:
Gale is facing a further 17 charges of fraudulently applying a total of $407,422 while a director of Gollin and Co between August, 1972 and February, 1976 and one charge of falsifying an account . . .
It is quite clear that the man was a crook. He was convicted and, if I remember rightly, he was sentenced to 16 years in gaol. This is the man who provided services for the Prime Minister of this country because there were no staff available. Yet the Prime Minister would be one of the few people in this House who could have afforded to pay for staff. He could have afforded to pay for the staff, but he did not.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! I wonder whether the character of the person so employed is relevant to the Committee at this time.
-I think it is extremely relevant that a crook was supplying services to a member of parliament.
– You are not helping your argument much.
-I think I am helping my argument by showing quite clearly that even people like the Prime Minister had to accept help. Yet he now imposes these sorts of restrictions quite arbitrarily and illegally, just as last year he illegally imposed a reduction. Last year he did not bring in any amendments to the determination but just said ‘you cannot have any more staff”, even though the determination was legally binding. The Prime Minister acted illegally. The Prime Minister accepted help from a crook and I think it is extremely relevant that this Committee realise that facilities ought to be provided for all members of parliament so that they do not have to accept help from outsiders which, at the very minimum, is highly debatable aid because there are always strings attached to it. Then there are the extreme circumstances such as those I have just outlined, where the Prime Minister, when he was a shadow Minister, was actually dealing with a person who later received 16 years’ gaol for getting money put of a particular company. He was the man who . provided the Prime Minister with staff. I would not be surprised if some of that money had not been fraudulently obtained from Gollin and Co. Ltd: I am sure that the shareholders who lost many millions of dollars in Gollin and Co. Ltd were not aware that the Prime Minister received his staff from that company. It took good care of the Prime Minister.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Prospect get back to the terms of the Bill.
-I think my remarks are extremely relevant. I would not be surprised if the Government Whip, who is trying to interject, were not in a similar sort of position. But I have no evidence of that and until people go to gaol, as they did in the case involving the Prime Minister, we cannot raise such matters in this chamber.
– I suggest that you withdraw that remark.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I suggest that the honourable member for Prospect withdraw.
-I conclude my remarks at this stage but I make it quite plain that it is extremely -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Bendigo has suggested that that statement be withdrawn. I suggest that the honourable member for Prospect withdraw.
-I am happy to withdraw it. But I do appeal to honourable members to make it quite clear that they are interested in having facilities provided in a legal and above-board way for all members of parliament so that those members of parliament can perform their appropriate duties.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I have to support the view you expressed earlier in the debate; that it is a pity the Government has seen fit once again to interfere with the independence of the Remuneration Tribunal. The Tribunal was established by the Labor Government because it felt that it was demeaning to the Parliament, that it was putting members of the Parliament in a false position, to have to fix its own salaries. Until the Tribunal was established that was the position that applied here. Having established the Tribunal we believed that this situation would come to an end. It should have come to an end. It would have come to an end but for the stupidity of certain people in the Senate in 1974 who moved to set aside the determination in that year. We are now in no better position than we were in before the Tribunal was established when we had to face the responsibility of personally fixing our own salaries. It is an invidious position for parliamentarians to be in and it is a position which distinguishes us from all the State parliaments. The question has been asked: Why is it that only members of the national Parliament, whose responsibility is greatest of all, receive any odium for salary increases? People have asked: Why is it that Federal members are attacked whenever a salary increase is proposed but that the State members, whose responsibility is infinitesimal compared with the responsibility of the national Parliament, never have a word of criticism levelled at them at all? The answer is very simple. It is because the States have a truly independent tribunal. For example, Queensland’s country members receive much more than do the country members in this Parliament. In Queensland there is not a word of protest, very often not even a line in a newspaper, because the decision is seen for what it is- a decision of an independent tribunal.
The Remuneration Tribunal recommended that shadow Ministers receive expenses for an unlimited number of nights. We are not helping the Parliament by making the Opposition inoperative. We are not helping parliamentary democracy by tying the hands of our shadow Ministers behind their backs. We are not helping the people we pretend to serve when we do that kind of thing to Her Majesty’s Opposition. It does not matter whether it is a Liberal government or a Labor government, the Opposition of the day has a terribly important role to play. We ought not do as is now suggested- attempt to tie their hands behind their backs so they cannot do anything about it.
I have never had any compunction about accepting the salary that I receive. I have always been underpaid. I have always been worth a lot more than I have ever received in the Parliament. With my talents, with my special gifts and ability, I could get twice the amount I receive in Parliament. Anyone who knows me will testify to the fact that I am worth a lot more than I have ever got in the Parliament; and more particularly perhaps as a shadow Minister than as a Minister. When I was a shadow Minister I worked just as hard with fewer staff than I did when I was a Minister. Whatever my faults might have been as a Minister -
– You do not admit any, do you?
– I do not admit any of them. One thing no one can say about me is that I was a lazy Minister or that I was a Minister who did not apply himself with dedication to his work. What I cannot understand about this Government is its reasoning and its rationale for setting aside the decisions of the Tribunal. I cannot understand why it has set aside the Tribunal ‘s decision to increase the salary allowance for Ministers. If anybody who has been a Minister thinks that a Minister is overpaid, he could not have been doing his job properly. No Minister in this Parliament, even those for whom I have very little admiration in the political sense as distinct from the personal sense, is not worth the money he is getting. Ministers are worth a lot more than they are getting. I believe that it is a travesty of the whole principle of democracy that a public servant should get a lot more money than the Minister whom he is supposed to serve.
– Quite right.
– I am glad to hear the honourable member say that. I have been pressing the Parliament for a long time to try to get a little self-respect. I have pleaded with the Parliament to try to obtain a little self-respect. The Ministers ought to show a little more selfrespect than they now show towards the ministries they administer. In my view a Minister who is prepared to vote for a salary that places him below his First Division officer is not a man who understands the proper relationship that ought to exist between a Minister of State and the Public Service.
– I am glad to hear the honourable member say that. Of all the penny-pinching attitudes that the Government has adopted towards private members and Ministers, the suggestion that if we accept this measure we might set an example to the rest of the community and that people will stop claiming increases in wages is demonstrably false.
Even if it could be proven, how does the Government justify chopping back the salaries of Ministers recommended to it by the Tribunal but giving the whole of the increase recommended by the Tribunal to the First Division officers? If anybody ought to be setting an example to the community it is the First Division officers, the Second Division officers and the top ranking Third Division officers. They are getting more than anybody. They are getting all sorts of perks about which we know nothing. They get a superannuation scheme to which they make absolutely no contribution.
-None at all. They loan the fund 5 per cent of their salaries each year. At the end of their term they demand the return of the loan, plus interest. Their 50 per cent superannuation pensions are paid without a single cent coming from them. Yet they have permanency. The real justification for superannuation for parliamentarians is the fact that once they get into this place they cross the Rubicon for all time. They have to be given some guarantee against the day when they will lose their seats or have to retire for some reason or another. They are entitled to a generous superannuation scheme. We have to pay 1114 per cent of our salaries into the scheme. We get no return by way of a lump sum reimbursement of that payment at the end of our pensionable term.
I have a great sympathy for the Tribunal. I have an enormous respect for His Honour Mr Justice Campbell and the way in which he carries out his tasks. I believe that we ought to have a little more understanding about how the Tribunal feels to be told that it is an independent tribunal and then to have its independence stripped away as it has been stripped away on this occasion. We ought to be a little more sensitive to the feelings of people who ought to be in a position of complete and absolute independence. We should not simply ride roughshod over their decisions as we do now, almost by habit. The Tribunal recommended that parliamentary salaries should be adjusted every half year. That recommendation has been scrapped by the Government. This raises once again the relationship between the executive arm of government and Parliament. What right has the executive arm of government to tell members of Parliament what their salaries should be?
-It has none at all. I am pleased to hear the honourable member say that. Eventually this message will get through the dense heads of some of those who continue to support the executive arm of government in its fight against the Parliament. Eventually they will agree with what I have been crying out for for years. We should stand up and tell the government that the Parliament and the government are two separate institutions, that the government has no right to tell the Parliament what it has to do, that the Parliament ought to be the body to tell itself how much its budget will be and not the crowd of people in a corner of this Parliament. The whole thing is so preposterous that words fail me. I cannot properly express my indignation at the thought that here am I, an elected member of the national Parliament, being told by members of the Executive and the public servants who prop them up that I cannot have what the independent tribunal says that I can have.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Chairman-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put
-I will not delay the Committee but I would like it to be noted that the Opposition objects to the amendments to this Bill but does not propose to call a division. I have not spoken in the Committee stage. The Government’s amendments are objected to by the Opposition but the Opposition will not call a division because the Government has to allow honourable members time to debate the Appropriation Bills.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-Hansard will note the honourable member’s remarks. I put the question:
That the question be now put.
– As a private member, I wish to register my objection to that motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The question now is:
That the Bill, as amended, be agreed to.
– I wish to make one or two remarks. I will not hold up the Committee for long. I will not take as long as it will take if the Government Whip decides to gag me. The Government has decided to alter selectively the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal. It has also decided over a period of 12 months to implement the recommendations of the Tribunal which favour the Government. The Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) should give some explanation for the Government’s decisions. Last year when a recommendation was made about additional staff for the Opposition- I am one of the members of the Opposition front bench who do not have additional staff- the Government rejected the proposition. Yet it devised a means of increasing the salary ranges and conditions of the limited number of staff so appointed in a manner which made the cost to the Government almost identical to that which would have applied had the recommendations of the Tribunal been adopted. Added to that, the Government decided outside the terms of the recommendation- I am sure that this was a matter which the Tribunal had considered and not decided on in a way that was favourable to the Government- to give five staff members to Government committees to operate on behalf of private members of the Government back bench. I think that the Committee is entitled to an explanation of that decision. If we are talking about reducing staff for the purposes of cost saving, the Government may have a moral argument although I have some doubts about that. But when the Government makes a decision to implement measures which are favourable to the Government and which the Tribunal has deemed fit not to support and make recommendations on, the Government ought to tell the Committee why it is reversing the decision of the umpire.
I wish to raise another matter. It is quite clear that the limitations being placed by this legislation are being placed for a political purpose and nothing else. There is no suggestion that any limitation should be placed on Ministers. There is no suggestion that any economies should be exercised by Ministers. In fact, the Minister for Administrative Services could tell us that he has recently approved a change in the allocation of motor vehicles to Ministers in a way which is making it difficult for honourable members to get to Parliament House on the morning after the House sits late because of the unavailability of cars. There is now a permanent allocation of cars to Ministers whether use of those cars is required or not. Those cars, even if they are not being used, are not available to the car pool in Canberra, despite the shortfalls. I also hope that the Government Whip will ask the Minister because of this shortage of Commonwealth cars to return to the situation where cars are available to Ministers on request and as required. That situation would apply to office holders as well. It was the situation which applied when I was an office holder.
I do not intend to proceed further. I think the Government is playing petty politics. It is not seeking to save money but merely trying to give the appearance of doing so. The expansion in expenditure of Government funds for political purposes on behalf of the Government parties in a number of guises is obvious to everyone. It is obvious that this is a cosmetic arrangement and certainly it does not cany through some of the other announcements made recently by the Government. In reply, the Minister will tell us what happened to the reported decision of the Government relating to annual indexation of parliamentary salaries? It is not included in the amendment or the Bill. There are a number of other matters and I think we could debate the subject at great length. But I think that at some stage members of Parliament will have to give some consideration to their position and standing. The Tribunal is a good idea provided it is allowed to make decisions, favourable or unfavourable to honourable members and Ministers. The Tribunal ceases to be of any practical value if it is going to be used only as a stalking horse for political advantage. That is what has happened under both governments in recent years.
-Mr Deputy Chairman -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
– I tried to catch your eye, Mr Deputy Chairman.
– Is this the first time a Minister has been gagged?
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. I must make the point quite clear because of that interjection. I gagged the back bench member who stood, not the Minister. The honourable member should keep his eyes open and he would know what is going on in the place. He would understand better.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Mr John McLeay)- by leaveproposed:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
– I wish to speak to the motion that the report be adopted.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Holt is not free to speak to the motion.
– Why not?
-The honourable member for Holt will resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I move:
Normally at this time one would thank all honourable members who have taken part in the debate. I do that now even though I thank some less warmly than others. But I think if I respond to the matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) that will cover just about all the matters raised by other honourable members who have taken part in the debate. I took some notes of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had to say on several occasions. The first point that he made- this has been made by other Opposition members- was that the Opposition believed that the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal should not be subject to disallowance by Parliament or be debated in the Parliament. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remember saying that. He has certainly been supported by other speakers today. The Remuneration Tribunals Act was the work of the Whitlam Labor Government. That Government invoked the disallowance provisions in relation to the August 1975 review.
– But did not after that.
-The Opposition when in Government invoked those provisions. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others have made the point that the Government should provide shadow Ministers with additional staff as determined by the Tribunal in its 1978 review. He will remember saying that. This Government has been far more generous in the provision of staff for the Opposition, with 44 positions, than was the Whitlam Labor Government, which provided only 38 staff positions to be shared by the two coalition parties. Ministers now are provided with less staff- 198 positions compared with 244 positions during the period of the Whitlam Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that while denying the Opposition staff which was awarded by the Tribunal, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had increased his staff. Specifically, the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister had set up a special press group that was conducting a public relations exercise. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is nodding his head. He remembers saying that. That has been said by others in this debate. This Government has provided staff for these particular positions: The Government Information Unit, four positions; State co-ordination officers, six positions; government parties support secretariat, five positions; making a total of 15 positions. Even when one adds the number of those positions to the 198 positions for Ministers and the three positions for the Government Whips, the total is 216. So the present number is very much less than the 244 positions provided to Ministers in the Whitlam Government.
The next point I make is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that decisions announced in the statement were made in one office and are not decisions of a government, nor were they discussed by the Government parties. The fact is that Cabinet made the decisions and reviewed the statement on a number of occasions as I well know because I had the carriage of that matter. Another point that he made was that twice yearly indexation of members salaries had been rejected because the Government- he did not say this today but in August when the statement was put down- has failed to adhere to its promise in respect of pensioners. He will remember saying that. I think that very night the twiceyearly indexation of pensions was announced. In a speech on 9 September 1975, towards the end of the Whitlam Labor Government’s term of office, the then Special Minister of State, Senator Douglas McClelland, when moving for the disallowance of the August 1975 determinations, gave as the reason:
The Government feels that a remuneration within the tribunal ‘s jurisdiction should be adjusted only once per annum.
That was the position stated by the present Opposition when it was in Government.
– How far back do you want to keep going?
-That is 1975, which is not such a heck of a long way back. Another significant point out of which a couple of speakers- in particular, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- made considerable capital was the cost of the Government Information Unit. I wish to place this information on the record if for no other reason than the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised the matter. The cost of salaries, allowances and overtime for
Press secretaries to Ministers and the Prime Minister in the calendar year 1975- the last year of the Labor Government-was $380,200. The total cost of salaries, allowances and overtime for Press secretaries to Ministers and the Prime Minister in the calendar year 1979 was $197,800. There is quite a significant difference there. The cost of the Australian Government Liaison Service, as it was then called, during the last year of the Whitlam Government was $3 1 5,500.
– How much?
– It was $315,500. The total of these two items comes to nearly $700,000. The total cost of the Government Information Unit for the first 1 1 months- I agree that period has passed- was $108,500. The total cost of this propaganda- I think that is the word that was used- under the Whitlam Government in 1975 was almost $700,000, in 1975 dollars. The total cost in 1978 under this Government was $306,000, which is less than half of the cost under Labor. I would like to mention a couple of other relevant points. During the period of the former Labor Government there were 27 Ministers and 27 Press secretaries, plus four journalists in Canberra and six journalists in the States. Under this Government there are six Press secretaries, plus the unit which I have just spoken about. I would like to intrude a slight degree of partisan politics here just to make up for some of the heavy material that has been unloaded on us in the last few minutes. I make the point that in the Labor States of New South Wales 19 Ministers have 22 Press secretaries; in the former South Australian Government which was defeated just recently in an election there were 13 Ministers and 14 Press secretaries; and in the Tasmanian Government at the moment there are 10 Ministers and eight Press secretaries. I do not really think that the Labor Administration can ever afford to make too much noise about its restraint in this area of so-called propaganda.
I would like at the same time to read to the House, so that it will be on the record forever, the guidelines for the appointment of the State coordination officers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spent some considerable time discussing this matter. These representatives will be members of the staff of the Minister in the State concerned who represents the Prime Minister in Federal-State affairs. He will not be a Press secretary. He will operate on behalf of all Ministers and service Ministers and members in the State. He will be responsible for practical operational purposes to the Government Information Unit in Canberra. He will report regularly on significant State issues which have or could have relevance to the Government. He will also disseminate effectively government information in his State. He will particularly assist Ministers in the most effective use of their time during visits to the States. He will liaise and communicate with Ministers and members, State and Federal, the media, and State and Federal party organisations. He will operate in the State concerned and will not travel with the Minister to whose office he is attached. They are the guidelines. They are on the record permanently.
I do not have very much more to say. I want to get the Bill through more than anything else. I refer to determination No. 9, which was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I think a couple of other speakers mentioned it also. This concerns the travelling allowances of Whips. In determination No. 9 the Tribunal provided for the first time a travelling allowance for the three Whips in this chamber when travelling to Canberra on duties connected with their office when the Parliament is not sitting. Now the Opposition wants this arrangement to extend to the Senate Whips. It says that this is a slip on the part of the Tribunal- perhaps it is- and that in some way we should be criticised for not sponsoring the payment of the allowance to Senate Whips. The position is that if we examine the submissions that were put to the Tribunal, including the Australian Labor Party submission, we see that this matter was not even mentioned and that there was no submission from the Whips themselves. The only other point I wish to make relates to the question raised by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) on the number of nights on which travelling allowances should apply to shadow Ministers. I make the point that in the letter which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the Prime Minister had written, the Prime Minister referred to shadow Ministers, but he also went on to say that in line with the long-standing practice in relation to Ministers during election campaigns the travelling allowance of a shadow Minister will cease from the date on which the Leader of the Opposition delivers the Opposition policy speech. The same principle applies to Government Ministers in relation to the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I conclude with the point that this travelling allowance did not apply at any time while the Labor Party was in government. The Tribunal made a determination in 1976 and it was adopted. We were in government then.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 23 August, on motion by Mr John McLeay :
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr John McLeay) read a third time.
Mr FIFE (Farrer- Minister for Business and
Consumer Affairs) (4. 1 2 )- I move:
The Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act 1975. These Proposals implement the Government’s decision foreshadowed by my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), in his Budget speech on 21 August 1979 by reducing the rate of export duty from $3.50 to $1.00 per tonne on all high-quality coking coal produced from underground mines. Similarly, the duty on high-quality coking coal produced from new open-cut mines that will first commence production on or after 1 July 1980; or produced from a major new extension which first commences production on or after 1 July 1980, being an extension to an open-cut mine established before that date, will be reduced to $ 1 . 00 per tonne.
The Proposals also implement further decisions of the Government by reducing to $1.00 per tonne the duty on high-quality coking coal produced from open-cut mining operations extracted at a vertical depth greater than 60 metres from the surface. In addition, exemption from payment of export duty is provided for coking coal having an ash content greater than 12 per cent determined by proximate analysis on an air-dried basis. This coal, while meeting the technical description of coking coal, can only be sold on the export market at a lower price as steaming coal because of its relatively high ash content. The new duties will operate from Thursday next, 1 November 1979.I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals No. 3 1 ( 1979).
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Proposals implement the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on furniture. The effect of the decision is to allow dentists’, hairdressers’ and opticians’ chairs, smoking requisites and aircraft seats entry at minimum rates of duty. Other vehicle seats will be dutiable at 25 per cent and the remainder of the goods under reference will attract a rate of 30 per cent.
In accepting the Commission’s recommendations, the Government noted the Commission’s comments that local manufacturers have maintained a commanding market share despite increasing imports; employment has remained relatively constant; and the average returns on funds employed have remained above the average for all manufacturing industries. The Commission considered that the rates recommended will maintain the competitive position of local manufacturers of most major furniture items without imposing an undue additional cost burden on consumers or promoting serious misallocation of resources.
The Government further accepted the Commission’s advice that certain imports from New Zealand were of sufficient magnitude to warrant action to protect the Australian industry. Consequently the rate of duty applicable to these imports from New Zealand will be raised to 15 per cent. The Commission also suggested that Developing Country Preference on certain items be removed. The Proposals make provision for general rates of duty to apply to these goods outside import quota allocations. The new duty rates will operate from tomorrow. I have had a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes prepared, which is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on spirits, spirituous beverages, et cetera and on grapes and wine. I also present the Industries Assistance Commission report on furniture.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee A
Consideration resumed from 24 October on the question:
That the following proposed expenditures be agreed to:
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 7,602,000
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $333,435,000
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $52,343,000
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $ 103,538,000
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $327,230,000
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $ 1,492,266,000
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $386,6 1 5,000
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $71,91 9,000
Department of the Capital Territory
Proposed expenditure, $80, 1 37,000
Department of Home Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $83,298,000
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $2,659,4 1 5,000
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $572,957,000
Proposed expenditure, $9 1 ,688,000 and that the following expressions of opinion agreed to in relation to the proposed expenditure for the Parliament be noted-
1 ) That the committee is of the opinion that there is an unnecessary duplication of administrative and budgetary functions within the multiplicity of departments that form the total administration of the Parliament. The committee therefore considers that the estimates for the Parliament should be presented under three headings, viz.: Senate, House of Representatives, and the three other departments, without particular items of proposed expenditure being specified.
That, in order to relieve accommodation congestion, the committee is of the opinion that the Parliament should have the first call on any accommodation which has become or becomes available in the near vicinity of the present Parliament House.
-I want to direct my comments on these Estimates to Aboriginal affairs. In so doing I want to draw the attention of the Parliament to what I regard as two major matters. One of them arose out of the Estimates Committee discussions and the other matter is, I think, of general importance. As all honourable members will recall, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave an undertaking that as soon as practicable within six months of a committee report being tabled in the Parliament, the Government would express its attitude towards the contents of that report. I am concerned about one of the more important reports dealing with the rights of Aboriginal communities. The report, prepared by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, relates to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland reserves. That report was tabled in the Senate in November 1978. That means that it has been available to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and to the Government for almost 12 months. To date it has not been the subject of any comment at all by the Minister in accordance with the undertaking given to the Parliament by the Prime Minister. That is a matter of concern and it continues to be a matter of concern, having regard to the response of the responsible Minister in the Estimates Committee wherein he indicated that the reason for there being a failure to comment was that the subject matter of that report continued to be the subject of discussion between the Government of Queensland and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Honourable members will recall that the subject matter of the inquiry by that Committee, on which Government supporters formed the majority, was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves Communities Self-Management) Act and that its recommendations were unanimous. I do not want to go over the historic background because I think honourable members will be familiar with the circumstances. The legislation arose out of a promise made by this Parliament and by this Government to endorse the concept of selfmanagement of Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. Both communities have sent endless deputations to this Parliament and have made pleas to honourable members on both sides of the House, to the shadow Minister as well to the Minister.
Aboriginal communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island have pointed out that despite the grandiose promises made by the Prime Minister and his Minister, it is perfectly apparent that it is the deliberate intention of the Government of Queensland, the Premier of Queensland, to continue with a policy- it predominates throughout the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland- of treating Aboriginal residents in Queensland as third-rate citizens. The Government of Queensland made no secret of the fact that it would frustrate any attempt by this Parliament to endorse, or acquiesce in, or even support the demands of the Aboriginal people of the Torres Strait Islands, and Aurukun and Mornington Island in particular, for selfdetermination. Every impediment that could be raised by the Government of Queensland was raised. Every technical point that could be taken was taken. It was the Government of Queensland on one hand and the Uniting Church of Australia and the Aboriginal communities on the other that looked to this Parliament and this Government for assistance.
The unanimous report of the Senate Standing Committee, now almost 12 months old, made perfectly clear what the Senate Committee felt about the attitude of the Queensland Government. It recommended unanimously: . . most attempts have failed to achieve any cooperative arrangement with the Queensland Government regarding management and control of the affairs of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in that State and the current agreement in respect of local government arrangements cannot, as yet, be seen as successful or as generally acceptable to the residents of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
The Committee then went on again to recommend unanimously: . . that Parliament enact specific statutes designed to deal with the conditions prevailing in different communities of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The nature and form of any acquisition of property required to re-inforce the self-management scheme, and the type and extent of compensation payable in respect of such acquisition, should then be determined on a case-by-case basis according to the needs of different communities.
We have a recommendation which, as far as this Government is concerned, will be consigned to the shelf and forgotten. I believe that reports by parliamentary committees are important. This particular report was of great social and political importance not only to the Aborigines who were the subject matter of the inquiry but also to Aborigines throughout Australia who are entitled to proper treatment on the basis of the referendum result carried by the Australian people. That referendum gave this Commonwealth Parliament grave responsibilities in Aboriginal affairs. Aborigines throughout Australia will determine the attitude of this Government in terms of its preparedness to stand up to the Government of Queensland. I suggest that the time is long overdue for there to be some positive statement and positive action taken in respect of that report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
The other matter that I want to deal with also relates to Aboriginal affairs. It was the subject of the Heritage Commission report recently made available to this Parliament. In that report honourable members will find a very significant and important statement about the importance of the preservation of Aboriginal sites. There are many of these sites throughout Australia. I think it is true to say that historically the Australian people, because of their attitude, have tended to regard the Aboriginal race as one which has not produced anything of cultural significance. Fortunately, I think that view is now changing and there is an overwhelming body of evidence that Aboriginal sites, particularly those with very significant rock paintings, are amongst the major prehistoric areas of art to be found anywhere in the world. I refer to the recent report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation which examined the preservation of the Quinkan Galleries on the Cape York Peninsula. The Committee had no hesitation in saying that it regarded the paintings at that site as part of the world heritage and that they should be nominated for the world heritage list.
The Committee stated that this site and its paintings ought to be regarded as being of immense significance in terms of any evaluation of prehistoric art. During the parliamentary recess I was able to spend some time looking at other Aboriginal art sites, mainly in the Kakadu National Park. I believe that that national park, like other parts of Australia, has a virtual treasure trove of prehistoric art. It is not merely of significance to the Aboriginal people of Australia but also, I believe, of immense significance to all Australians. In my view, these art treasures are as significant as any to be found in ancient Egypt and they are as significant to the general knowledge of pre-history as anything to be found anywhere in Europe. Because we are a comparatively young country and because traditional attitudes are taken toward Aboriginal forms of culture, this Parliament has not paid sufficient attention to the need to fund adequately all of those bodies responsible for seeing not only that these sites are properly recorded but also that preservation of these very important art treasures takes place as a matter of major priority.
In the answer to a question I asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs it was indicated that most of the work in recording sites was being done by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. It was stated by the Minister that responsibility in these areas was really a matter for State governments. But when one looks at the Budget allocation for the Institute, one sees that it has nothing like the funds necessary to carry on effective preservation work. These sites are not only of importance to the Aboriginal people, but also of immense importance to all Australians. The Government must regard it as a matter of highest priority in dealing with the allocation of funds to ensure that adequate funds are made available, that a proper policy of co-operation is developed between the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and relevant State authorities to ensure that preservation of these works proceeds as a matter of urgency.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to raise the question of children’s services in this debate, as they were outlined in the appropriations for the Department of Social Security. In particular, I would like to talk about the provision of pre-school facilities and children’s services in New South Wales. I share the concern of a number of my constituents about this subject. I represent an inner city electorate where we have been deprived over a period of these types of services. I would like to incorporate a table in Hansard. I have sought the permission of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and he has agreed to its incorporation.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows the number of four-year-old children who are attending pre-schools in the States of Australia. In New South Wales 38.6 per cent of the fouryearolds attend pre-school. The percentage rises up to 89 per cent in Tasmania. The national average is 63.6 per cent. The reason for this rather shocking disparity between New South Wales and other States is caused by a number of historical factors. When one looks at what has occurred in children’s services in New South Wales, one is quite concerned about the position. Prior to 1973, under the former Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales, about 25c per child per annum was being spent on children’s services. During the same period in Victoria, which had a more enlightened form of liberalism in control, the State Government was spending approximately $2 per child per annum. One should be quite concerned about the approach that the New South Wales Government took.
When the Whitlam Labor Government came to power in 1 972 and the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) was the Minister in charge of children’s services, we saw quite a change in all States except New South Wales. There were considerable difficulties in getting the New South Wales Liberal Government to come to an agreement with the Commonwealth regarding the provision of funds for child care. In fact, when the former Labor Government introduced the interim pre-school program in 1973-74, the readiness of States to take up the capital grants offered under that program and to engage in efficient planning varied considerably.
There is no question but that the significant capital funds made available to the States by the Commonwealth were used in varying degrees of effectiveness. Between 1973 and 1978 the number of pre-schools in Australia increased by an estimated 60 per cent- from 2,472 to 3,95 1 pre-schools. The number of children enrolled in those pre-schools increased by approximately 80 per cent, from 121,000 to 218,000 children. It was significant that in that period the New South Wales Government showed that it was not willing to co-operate. That is an indictment of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was the Minister in charge of this area he entered into written agreements with the States to provide 75 per cent recurrent funding for child care services and a sum of $60,000 towards the capital cost of child care units. He should be congratulated. Indeed, the people who formed the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission, and particularly the two Children’s Commissioners in New South Wales, Mr Lex Gray and Miss Trisher Kavanagh, should be congratulated. They worked very hard to raise the level of pre-school education available in New South Wales.
The present Government has considerably changed the guidelines that were introduced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) when he was the responsible Minister. In fact, when Mrs Coleman, who heads the Office of Child Care, appeared before Estimates Committee A, she said:
Perhaps I should say that the policy of the Government for some years now has been that pre-school education is essentially a State government responsibility.
That is a far cry from the provisions that were made available between 1972 and 1975. 1 put to the Parliament that the present Government has a moral obligation to assist the children in New South Wales. The reason why that State is behind at present is the tardy approach to this matter by previous Liberal-Country Party governments in that State. The present Premier of New South Wales and the present Minister for Youth and Community Services, Mr Jackson, have taken up the challenge. The State Government, in its Budget for this year, provided a considerable amount of money for the provision of pre-schools and children’s services in New South Wales. The Federal Government should be willing to accept that there is a need in that State. The system of providing block grants on the basis of the number of children at present in a pre-school, which militates against the funds provided for New South Wales, should be reconsidered. When Mrs Coleman appeared before Estimates Committee A, she also said:
The block grant itself is allocated on the basis of the number of children who were attending pre-schools in each State. A quantum was fixed by the Cabinet and information was sought from the State on the numbers of children attending in the year prior to school entry and the quantum was apportioned on a percentage basis. That obviously has been influenced by the extent of the development of preschool facilities in each State.
At that meeting my colleague the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) went on to say:
Under the true Liberal principle that the more you have the more you are going to get.
I do not think that that is a very suitable way to be dealing with the educational facilities that we make available to young children in Australia. I would hate to see the children of my State- in particular, the children of my electorate- suffer because of that. I hope the Department and the Government will look again at the provision of those funds in New South Wales in particular next year. From the report of Estimates Committee A we can see that there has been a move away from the funding of child care facilities under the Child Care Act to the funding of facilities under what is called centre-based funding. In many ways I would support that move because it provides for smaller units, which gives much more flexibility to planning. If there is a decline in the pre-school population in a particular area, it enables the buildings to be recycled for other community uses. That is a laudable idea. There is less capital cost involved and there is more community involvement.
The only failing of that system at present is that it costs considerably more to run these community-based child care facilities and there is a need for more recurrent funding for most of those facilities. The teacher-student ratio in a neighbourhood centre-type child care facility is higher than the ratio in a larger pre-school. The Office of Child Care and the Government have not taken that into account in the recurrent grants that are made available for staffing and for the other costs of running these centres. The funds available under the Child Care Act are indexed- admittedly only up to awards payments made prior to 1978 but a form of indexation is built in- whereas, unfortunately, with centre-based funding there is no indexation. Because of this change in the Government’s policy, there will be a continual funding problem associated with these facilities. I suggest that this should be looked at when the question of the funding of those types of centres is considered next year.
All in all, I support the activities of the Office of Child Care. It is probably one of the more progressive government organisations that I have seen when looking at the Estimates for this year. In closing, I would just like to say that as a small contribution to the International Year of the
Child I hope that the Government will endeavour next year to make a decision for the children of New South Wales and provide some extra capital assistance in order to ensure that those children have equality of opportunity with the children of Victoria and Queensland, the adjacent States.
– I want to make a few brief remarks about the proceedings of Estimates Committee A, particularly its consideration of the estimates for the Department of the Capital Territory. I must agree with the remarks of my colleagues the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) when they said that they considered the proceedings to be quite farcical. In terms of any influence that those committees may have on the Budget, I would agree with those honourable members 100 per cent. I have found very limited value in the proceedings of those committees. Certainly, we obtained some information that we may not otherwise have obtained under the old systeminformation which we had to drag out of the responsible Minister and his advisers and which was not readily forthcoming.
In the main we have to keep in mind whilst we are debating the estimates, that the Budget is already one-third spent as four months of the year have already passed. By the time we have finished debating the Budget it will be fivetwelfths spend. I do not think that we have any influence at all over the spending of the Budget. We have to realise that. In order for us to have any influence over the Budget we should be debating now a Budget for expenditure commencing on 1 January. It would not alter the timing of the Budget debate. It would alter the timing of the spending of the money. I do not see anything sacrosanct about a Budget having to go from 1 July to the end of June. The Parliament would play a much more effective role in controlling government expenditure and would have some influence over the Budget if in fact the Budget went from 1 January to the end of December. We could debate that Budget before we started to spend under it. It is interesting to note that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) had something to say about this at a recent seminar and that he expressed some sympathy for that point of view. Certainly there are problems in relation to the revenue side of the Budget, but these would be acknowledged. It is the expenditure side mostly that we would be debating. In that way the back bench members and the Parliament generally would have some real say in Budget spending. I agree with my colleagues when they said that the present situation is farcical. The Budget is already committed and in fact four-twelfths or five-twelfths of it is spent while we are still debating it. It is a ritualistic sort of farce which has very little meaning.
Getting back to my concession that we did get some information- as I have said it took some getting-about the Australian Capital Territory, the Department of the Capital Territory, in response to my question as to how many blocks of serviced land were available in Canberra, made several attempts to answer the question. It started off at about 3,500 blocks and then somebody suggested that there were a few more. Eventually it ended up saying that over 6,000 blocks of serviced land are available in Canberra. I was also able to extract information that that had a capital value of something like $55m. We all know what would have happened if this sort of situation had arisen in private enterprise. If some developer had developed that amount of land he could not have sat back on it indefinitely, as the Government seems to be quite prepared to do. He would have had to do something about it. I should have thought that a government which is committed to market forces would do something about its land which is lying idle and would attempt to meet the market by reducing the reserve prices. There is tremendous presure on the building industry in Canberra. It is a disaster area. If the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) really wanted to help the building industry in Canberra and to help the people on low incomes who want to buy land and build a home the sensible thing for him to do, which would be consistent with the Government’s philosophy, would be to reduce the reserve price of that land and try to provide some incentive for people on lower incomes to get a block of land and build a house on it.
I have put those suggestions to the Minister. I have not received a response. I have heard some spokesmen from the Department provide all sorts of excuses for not doing anything about it and saying that it may upset existing leaseholders. All I can say is that the market is down. If the Department were consistent in its philosophy it would reduce the reserve price and try to provide some incentive. At the same time as we have these 6,000 fully serviced building blocks- they are magnificent building blocks out in the Tuggeranong Valley and in some parts of Belconnen in my electorate- the National Capital Development Commission is trying to promote schemes for what we call the infill program. Some of these schemes involve fairly expensive town houses which the Commission wants to build on land that has become accepted by use over many years as parkland. Certainly, it is not gazetted as parkland, but that position applies to some 2,000 acres of parkland in Canberra. Alot of this land in the inner areas of Canberra has been accepted for generations as parkland. Now the Commission is talking about building town houses on the land when 6,000 fully serviced blocks are waiting to be built on. There is an inconsistency there in that the NCDC says that it is meeting a market demand. I do not know who is creating that demand. Obviously it is a legitimate demand if people want to build expensive town houses, but my information is that sufficient sites are available in Canberra without building on parkland at this stage. I think the Government’s priorities should be adjusted to give positive incentives to people on lower incomes and families with one pay packet, to get houses. We have the land, we have the builders, we have the resources, but the social need of the lower income people is not being met, although the NCDC is very anxious to meet market needs. I suggest that if it is committed to the market, it should reduce the reserve prices on those blocks of land and try to encourage people on lower incomes to get a block of land and build a house.
There are many areas, of course, in which we found deficiencies in the Department of the Capital Territory. I was very concerned to find that there is no organisation within the Department which is responsible for handling youth problems and unemployment problems. The welfare branch, of course, which is a band-aid organisation, does excellent work, but there is nothing to handle the youth support schemes as there is in New South Wales. A project is under consideration to establish a co-operative workshop, but there is no organisation within the Department of the Capital Territory to look at that and assess it. There is just no organisation there. The young unemployed in Canberra are greatly disadvantaged by this lack of any structural organisation within the Department to deal with these problems. Of course, there are shortages in the legislative section. We have been waiting a long time for legislation and the section does not have the resources, because of staff ceilings, to fulfil its functions.
In conclusion, I want to mention very briefly the great concern we have for one of our few industries in Canberra. Our local egg industry is under great pressure from unfair competition from the Victorian Egg Board, which has seen fit to dump its surplus eggs in Canberra at considerably below market prices or Egg Board prices, both in New South Wales and Victoria. Our producers in the Australian Capital Territory are not frightened of competition; they welcome it. They have a better product and can deliver a fresher product which is very acceptable to our community. But we do object to dumping on the market. This has been going on for 12 months and it is time the Minister did something positive about it. He has been sitting back waiting for the problem to disappear, hoping it will be resolved in some other way. I think he has to bring in some legislation, and I hope it will be legislation that will fix a minimum price. I am quite confident that that minimum price, if the Minister moves in that way, would be below both the New South Wales Egg Board and Victorian Egg Board prices. That would stop the Victorian Egg board from dumping eggs on our market to the disadvantage of the local producers.
– Do not forget that the Canberra producers started it by carting eggs into Victoria.
– We do not want to interfere with the market in Victoria or New South Wales. We want to be left alone to produce our own fresh eggs and not be the victims of dumping. If they want to produce surplus eggs in Victoria, let them convert them to pulp or powder or whatever and send the product overseas at a loss. It is up to the Victorian Government to act responsibly in this matter and not to break down the orderly processes of marketing.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee B
- Mr Speaker, may I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to consider in one motion, firstly, that each of the proposed expenditures covered in the report of Estimates Committee B be agreed to, and secondly, that the resolution and expression of opinion by Estimates Committee B be noted. This procedure has been discussed with the Opposition, which has raised no objection to what is proposed.
-Is it the wish of the House to adopt the procedure suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, that suggestion will be agreed to. The question before the House is:
That the following proposed expenditures be agreed to:
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $272,026,000
Department of Finance
Proposed expenditure, $36,76 1 , 000
Advance to the Minister for Finance
Proposed expenditure, $ 125,000,000
Department of Science and the Environment
Proposed expenditure, $234,890,000
Postal and Telecommunications Department
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 96,404,000
Department of Employment and Youth Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $235,785,000
Department of Industrial Relations
Proposed expenditure, $16,345,000
Department of Industry and Commerce
Proposed expenditure, $20,622,000
Department of Business and Consumer Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $1 13,836,000
Department of Housing and Construction
Proposed expenditure, $245,827,000
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $444,973,000
Department of Productivity
Proposed expenditure, $138,454,000
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $65,276,000
Department of Trade and Resources
Proposed expenditure, $30 1,633,000
Department of the Special Trade Representative
Proposed expenditure, $422,000
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $329,679,000
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $ 109,595,000 and that the following resolution and expression of opinion be noted-
That recognising the severe damage which blatant tax avoidance schemes and tax evasion cause through the loss of revenue and the reduction in the equity of the tax system, the committee endorses the Government’s moves to increase, the financial and personnel resources of the Taxation Office so as to facilitate more effective prevention of blatant tax avoidance schemes and evasion.
That this Committee is of the view that the Commonwealth Government should present to the Commonwealth Grants Commission (in its examination of the relativities as between the States under the tax sharing arrangements) a submission detailing the resources which in its view should be available per pupil to each State to enable primary and secondary school pupils attending government and nongovernment schools to be provided with a standard of schooling considered to be adequate.
-In the time available to me in this debate I want to refer to the Government’s argument and more particularly that of Treasury as set out in the detailed Budget Papers and also in an article published by the head of Treasury, Mr Stone, that deficit reduction is absolutely essential to economic recovery. In so doing, it is admitted by those who hold to this argument that the long-accepted analysis from Keynesian economics that a deficit increase through reduced taxes or increased government expenditure would have stimulatory effects on the economy is correct in the short run, and conversely that a deficit reduction by tax rises or an expenditure cut would have contractionary effects on the economy is also correct in the short run. However, they then go on to argue that the initial effects will be more than offset by counteracting effects on monetary policy, the balance of payments and wages. It should be said immediately that their analysis of these counteracting effects is not accepted by many economists in that it involves a considerable degree of unsubstantiated judgment and there is very little empirical evidence to support it.
The argument in respect of monetary policy is that the higher the deficit the more likely it is that adverse effects will flow. These are supposed to come through an increase in the money supply; a tighter monetary policy; problems in persuading the private sector to take up government securities to finance the higher deficit or through an outflow of capital overseas.
Let me briefly consider each of these possibilities. In regard to the increase in the money supply, it is usually argued that if the higher deficit leads to a higher rate of money supply growth this will add to inflation. I have already made the point in a previous speech on the Loan Bill that in looking at other countries there is little relationship to be seen between the deficit and inflation, and the same also is true of our history. A more specific point to make is that the inflationary impact will surely depend on the extent of the money supply rise and the rate of money supply growth that would otherwise have occurred. A rise of one per cent to two per cent on a rate of 10 per cent in the money supply growth could hardly be said to be likely to result in notably more inflation. That is the kind of rise which would occur with an increase in the deficit of some $800m. This is especially so if the rate of growth that would otherwise have occurred is restrictive as in the 10 per cent money supply rate growth target for the current Budget. This must be compared with the fact that the Budget forecasts a 10 per cent rise in prices and a rise of three per cent in economic growth. If we allow for only a 10 per cent money supply growth this is likely to be quite restrictive in itself and to prevent expansion which would otherwise have occurred. Another one per cent to two per cent would allow more scope for growth to occur while still not being permissive towards inflation.
In regard to the possibility of tighter monetary policy, in this respect it is argued that a higher deficit could lead to higher interest rates if the money supply target rate was adhered to. More restrictive policies on bank lending would be required thus tending to crowd out private expenditure and result in higher interest rates. Whether such tightening of monetary policy would be required depends on conditions at the time. At present I would argue that it is not necessary. However, it should be noted that on the assumption that it was necessary there is no certainty or even any established likelihood that crowding out of the private sector would occur. As reported in the Australian Economic Review for the first quarter of this year, recent econometric work in the United Kingdom demonstrates that in these circumstances an increased deficit will not only have no crowding out effect on the private sector but also that its financial effects will be positively to stimulate the private sector.
In regard to the argument that there will be problems in financing the deficit by sales to the non-bank public, I have already shown in my speech on the Loan Bill that the financial institutions are currently holding relatively low levels of government securities. So the problem of a glut of government securities does not currently apply. It is also relevant to current circumstances to note that in the last financial year the nonbank public take-up of government securities was far below previous years. Page 27 of Budget Paper No. 1 states unambiguously that non-bank take-up of Commonwealth Government securities was equivalent to 32 per cent of the domestic deficit for 1978-79 compared with 53 per cent in 1977-78 and 59 per cent in the previous year. Clearly there is no glut of government securities on the market at present. Indeed, the Government did not even try to sell bonds for most of last year.
In regard to the argument about an outflow of capital overseas, it is argued that an increased deficit would be seen by foreign investors as likely to lead to higher inflation, so there would be exchange rate uncertainty and a drying up of capital inflow. If the depreciation of the exchange rate did occur it would add to inflation by raising import prices. However, such prospects are not supported by the available empirical evidence. The Australian Economic Review in its first quarter edition for 1979 reviewed the empirical evidence regarding the likely effect on the balance of payments current account and the capital account and concluded that the various models that have been established, which include the Reserve Bank and Treasury models, did not produce results which supported the view that a more stimulatory policy would lead to balance of payments problems. It concluded:
The available evidence does not provide grounds for unmitigated gloom as to the balance of payments consequences of expansionary policies in the current situation.
In regard to wages, it is argued that a more expansionary fiscal policy would lead to higher wages than would otherwise occur and that therefore employment would be less likely to rise. In addition, it is argued that existing real wage levels are too high to encourage employers to take on extra labour and that therefore any stimulatory policy would be negated by this excessive wage level. This argument assumes that the so-called real wage overhang still exists and the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has found that it does not exist. Indeed, the Government’s whole argument on the real wage overhang has been shown by previous argument on this side of the chamber to be inappropriate. Thus the assertion that Australia ‘s real wages are too high and are inhibiting economic recovery is extremely dubious. Similarly, the argument that a higher deficit would lead to higher wages is lacking in logical foundation. If this argument really means that a higher deficit would raise economic activity and thereby facilitate higher wages because of greater bargaining power for the unions, such an argument applies whether the stimulus comes from the public or the private sector. What seems to be implicit in this argument is that any recovery would be bad because it would lead to higher wages and that would inhibit recovery. If that is the case there is precious little hope for the future as it would seem that what was being argued was that any recovery in economic activity was doomed because of the likelihood of increased wages. It also ignores the point that if measures used to reduce the deficit such as increased taxes or increased health costs raise prices and /or reduce living standards this will encourage higher wage claims despite the lower deficit. The notion that wage claims and the intensity with which they are sought are somehow related directly to the size of the deficit is therefore utterly naive. Such an assumption amounts to little more than a pious hope and in practice is likely to prove completely incorrect.
Finally, it is argued by the advocates of deficit reduction as the policy panacea that it is especially important to take into account the effects on economic activity of the confidence and expectations of the business sector and consumers. Thus it is argued that an increased deficit would revive fears of more inflation and inhibit investment growth. Such a proposition sits oddly with the fact that while the Fraser Government has been in office deficits have been higher than was the case under the Labor Government but private investment expenditure has been one of the few bullish points of the economy. If the deficit is so discouraging to business leaders why have they continued to invest? Why too have businessmen in other countries where deficits have been far higher than in Australia continued to invest? I hazard a guess that one reason is that the actual inflation level has been relatively low in countries such as Germany, Japan, Austria and the Netherlands. The higher deficits in those countries has not discouraged investment.
Thus the actual inflation level and perceptible increases in it because of policy changes may be rather more important than the deficit itself. In Australia, measures used to reduce the deficit, such as the crude oil levy, increased health costs and increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco all feed directly into the consumer price index and so inflame inflationary expectations. The discouragement to investment through fears of what these price rises will do to inflationary expectations in the nation generally may well be more likely adversely to influence investment decisions and the deficit per se. Especially is this so when we consider that the contractionary effect on demand of the reduced deficit will further reduce the incentive to invest. One could be more positive still that this would be so with consumers. They certainly do not make their spending decisions on the basis of how high the deficit is, but it is likely that the actual movement in prices has some influence. Thus measures to reduce the deficit which also add to prices create inflationary expectations in consumers which will be likely to reduce their propensity to spend.
Certainly our recent history supports that analysis. Through 1974, the savings ratio increased sharply yet it was only in the last quarter of that year that a substantial deficit occurred. The earlier fall while the Budget was in domestic surplus was clearly much more related to the actual level of inflation and its rapid rate of increase than to some nebulous deficit outcome.
It is also argued that an increased deficit would increase expectations of higher interest rates and encourage speculation. This is also without foundation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to devote a few minutes to the committee procedures themselves and how we arrive at this report stage. There has been- you will be well aware of this, Mr Deputy Speaker- a growing concern over many years now about the increasing irrelevance of the Parliament in the process of the government of the Australian nation. This is a matter that has worried other parliaments and other people who are concerned for the process of government in countries where the system of government is democratic and, particularly, where the Westminster system of democracy is operating.
I recall that in 1975, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), when Leader of the Opposition, spoke of this problem during a debate on a matter of public importance. I shall quote a couple of excerpts from that speech to indicate the interest of the Prime Minister in this matter and to indicate that the problem has been worrying the Parliament for some time. The Prime Minister spoke of ‘a concern for the reputation, for the role and for the effectiveness of this House of Representatives’. Later on in the speech he said:
We could well look to see whether or not we should have a system of supplementary questions to probe individual Ministers . . .
Further on he said:
There is an inadequate role, I believe, for private members of Parliament, whether they be on the Government side or on the Opposition side.
Further on still he said:
I believe that one of the most effective things we could do would be to establish an effective committee system.
The Parliament is not the body that determines legislation. Very few private member’s Bills come before the House and when they do there is a tendency for them to sit low on the Notice Paper. The Bills in fact are drafted by the Government and its agents. The Parliament does not have the power to initiate the voting of money. That requires a message from the Governor-General. That is a necessary provision and I do not quarrel with it. But then one must ask: What is the Parliament’s role? The Parliament’s traditional role is that it grants money to the Government. It is the public’s watchdog of their revenue. That is the long-standing, historical role of Parliament. Yet we have not exercised our responsibilities as the public’s watchdog of these moneys very effectively for a very long time now. I think that is one of the reasons why we see headlines such as ‘The Tax Revolt’. That is why the arguments of Professor Laffer have become so popular with the community and why so few editorial writers and so few members of the public have said that Parliament will see that the public’s moneys are not wasted. Yet that is our historic role.
The Estimates committee system was an attempt to bring the expenditure of public moneys under somewhat more detailed scrutiny than had been possible under the procedures of the Committee of the Whole. Under that latter procedure, honourable members came into the House and made a series of 10 minute speeches that were unrelated. Though many of them were excellent speeches, they did not bring the budgetary process under any consistent, structured criticism. It has been said by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) that the Estimates committees were of limited value. I do not quarrel with that; of course they were of limited value. To start with, Parliament has a limited role but I suggest that it is not exercising that limited role to the full. Also, the committee system is new. But the honourable member for Fraser also said that the committees enabled him to get some information on the expenditure of public moneys. I submit that that is how Parliament is to exercise its control over the use of public moneys- through the use of information. Unless the members of the Government party of the day, whatever party it may be, break Caucus or break ranks there is not going to be a vote to reduce expenditure or to change expenditure. The way in which expenditures will be changed is by bringing the expenditure process and the individual items under question, by testing them for effectiveness. That is a process that is proper to Parliament and is within its competence.
Recently I had the opportunity to see the development of this process in Westminster. It has gone far further than it has here and it is far more effective than it is here so far. Nonetheless, the procedures that Westminster has adopted are in essence and in broad the procedures that we are starting to adopt in Australia. I suggest that it would be of very great help to the Australian citizen, particularly in his role as a taxpayer, if the practice of incremental budgeting were to be brought under scrutiny so that last year’s expenditure did not automatically become next year’s expenditure, plus a bit for inflation.
– Zero-based budgeting.
– Zero-based budgeting has to be considered very carefully and at least some items have to be considered from a zero base each year. It would be very helpful if a formalised system of program evaluation were to be instituted so that each program was tested against its original aims to see whether it was having the effect that it was intended to have. A report has been submitted to this Parliament recently about a softwoods project in the Northern Territory that was supposed to give rise to employment for Aboriginals. Well, it produced neither softwood nor employment. Yet it went on year after year and no one questioned it. We ought to be in a position to put a stop to that sort of behaviour. All governments, whatever their political colour, are guilty of that sort of behaviour.
– It might give us a bit more freedom to do a few of the things we want to do.
– Indeed; if we did not waste money on things that were not effective we would have far more money to spend on those things that were effective. That flows automatically. Finally, I suggest that it might be helpful, when new programs are considered, if some form of economic impact statement were brought down with those programs. If a department came forward with a new program it would be obliged to put down an impact statement saying: ‘Right, it will benefit these people; this is the target population. But it will also have this effect on the taxpayer for X years down the line, as the population changes; it will have this effect on this and that market; and so on’. Those impact statements could be evaluated through the processes of the Department of Finance and the spending department would be required to justify what it was proposing. The spending Minister would be required to justify what he was proposing. The public sector in Australia represents almost 40 per cent of our gross domestic product. It is not all in Commonwealth hands. It represents almost 40 per cent of our annual increment to wealth. If we spend that 40 per cent inefficiently we ought not to be surprised if our wealth grows very slowly.
-The setting up of the Estimates committees has at least caused a great deal of comment. People have come into the House to speak when the committee reports are being dealt with. I do not join many of my colleagues in totally condemning the operation of the committees. If it had not been for the bungling of this incompetent Government in setting up the committees they could have worked much better than they did. I think that the committees have some future in terms of scrutinising the appropriations for the various departments. They gave us access to the bureaucracy which is not available otherwise unless we have some sort of confidential briefing on legislation. I think that many honourable members benefited from their contact with the public servants. We were able to see how competent Ministers were. As we expected, they were not very competent.
As to the area to which I want to direct my attention, the employment area, we did not come away from Estimates Committee B any wiser than we went to it, but we were able to ascertain that the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs is not doing the work required of a department of that nature if we are to meet the problems and challenges in the years ahead in finding jobs for the number of people in this country who want to work. Before I deal with employment, I want to refer to the way in which the Department of Social Security is dealing with unemployed people in terms of the work test and the payment of unemployment benefit. The letter which is now sent out to unemployed people states:
An appointment has been made for you and your spouse to discuss your continuing eligibility for unemployment benefit.
The appointment details are than set out. The letter continues:
The interview is held to review your entitlement to unemployment benefit and to answer any questions you may have.
An attachment to the letter states:
Bring with you any of the following papers which will help to establish your identity: an original birth, baptism or marriage certificate, or an extract issued at least five years ago; a taxation group certificate covering a total of at least six months full-time employment;
Of course, many unemployed people do not have such a thing. The attachment continues: a passport;
I would not have thought that many unemployed people in Australia would have a passport. It continues: an original motor vehicle registration form in your name; a credit card showing your full name and address;
I would be delighted to know how many unemployed people carry around a Diners Club card or an American Express card so that they can be identified by the Department of Social Security. The attachment continues: a rate or water account made out in your name showing your present address; a taxation assessment notice for a previous year; an insurance policy in your name issued at least two years ago; for school leavers- a recent school report or reference on official school paper:
A driving licence or a savings bank pass book is not acceptable as evidence of your identity without additional supporting evidence.
When we consider the number of people who are joining the army of what we now term the hidden unemployed, the people who are no longer registering for unemployment benefit or registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service in order that they may find employment, we find that the reason they are not registering is that they are being harassed by various government departments, either through the work test or through their eligibility for the payment of unemployment benefit. This crude letter is sent out by the Department of Social Security to unemployed people. It is not sent to these people only once a year. The long term unemployed people are now being asked to present themselves on a weekly basis in some centres throughout Australia and to bring forward this sort of material. It is indicative of the mentality of government thinking, which comes from the top- from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- right down to the bureaucracy of the Government, that we are asking unemployed people to bring along their credit cards so that they can be identified. Anybody under 1 8 years of age who is unemployed and who is receiving $36 a week or any unemployed married person who is receiving $53.45 a week and who has a credit card must have told the people in charge of the credit card system a good story to be handed a credit card.
Other matters raised before Estimates Committee B ought to be clarified because they were not clarified in the Budget debate. Firstly, all the boasting by the Government about how many more apprentices would be trained in this country because of the increase in expenditure from $38m to $56m in the appropriation for the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training Scheme this year is a lot of hogwash. Estimates Committee B was told by one of the public servants- it is recorded in Hansardthat the increase will allow for the subsidy to be paid this year to an additional 613 apprentices or, as the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures tells us, an increase of one per cent in the number of apprentices being trained under the Government’s CRAFT scheme. Our search to bring in 10,000 tradesmen from overseas every year for the next five years goes on because the Government has not met up to the challenge of training the people who are available in this country. Our deficiency in training people for the jobs that will be available in the next five years goes on in spite of the fact that the appropriation for apprentice training has increased from $38m to $5 6m.
In other areas we have been able to prove- I ask honourable members opposite to look at the Hansard for Estimates Committee B- the enormous conflict between the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs about the criteria being used for allowing migrants to come into this country. There is no doubt that at Cabinet level this Government has decided to downgrade job opportunities in this country. Migrants are to be allowed to come to Australia and settle. As we said last week in the debate on the matter of public importance on this subject and as has been shown at the meetings of Estimates Committee A, in the debate that took place in the House some weeks ago and in the debate on Tuesday night of this week, the Government is in a muddle over the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System. The Department of Employment and Youth Affairs has been played down. Its influence has been submerged. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has now taken over. There is no doubt that people are being encouraged to settle in Australia. There is absolutely no chance that all of them will be employed in the short term after arrival in this country.
Further, as the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has said and as the debate by Estimates Committee A will show, there is absolutely no hope that this Government will take any action to reduce the total number of unemployed people in this country. The Treasurer said that he did not expect unemployment to be any less in August 1980 than it was in August 1979 when he brought down the Budget. In fact, all the indicators are that unemployment will be higher in 1980 when all the school leavers hit us and register for employment in January and February. The Government has absolutely nothing in the pipeline of any value. I repeat that it has nothing of any value.
There is no doubt from what the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Prime Minister are saying that some sort of woolly scheme will be thrust upon the young people of this country in order to take them off the unemployment list. Fewer unemployed people will register next year because of schemes that the Government is looking at. I can predict now what sort of schemes they will be. They will involve the payment of an allowance much less than the unemployment benefit so that the recipients will not be judged as unemployed. They will be judged as people in the transitionary stage from school to work. Any sort of woolly scheme that the Government may want to introduce could take between 50,000 and 80,000 young people between 1 5 and 1 8 years of age off the unemployment list by paying them an allowance which is far less than the $36 a week to which they would be entitled as registered unemployed people.
A number of the matters which came out at the meetings of Estimates Committee B reinforced the views we held during the debate on the Budget. I would not describe the Estimates committees as being a total failure. I think that those people from both sides of the House who pushed for the establishment of the committees ought to push for them again next year. We will then have more experience under our belts as to how to handle them. The public servants will also know what is expected of them. Perhaps Ministers will be a little more articulate and a little better informed next year than they were this year in answering questions about their various departments. Perhaps we will have a more sophisticated political debate in this country as a result of these committees. Reform does not come easy in the Westminster system. Michael Foot, when he was Leader of the House, pushed for morning sessions for the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. He found to his surprise that very few people attended the sessions. In this country the Speaker is now talking about reform of the Senate to avoid what happened in 1975. But as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Speaker himself was involved in a great controversy in 1974 when the Senate blocked Supply. Those things must be overcome but it does not mean that every time we have some sort of minor reform we should throw it out the window.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I welcome the opportunity to participate in this Estimates debate and I welcomed the opportunity to be part of the new Estimates committee system which has been tried in this Parliament. I think the system has given an opportunity to both Government and Opposition members to question Ministers in detail and, through the Ministers, their department officials. Before moving on to the Estimates, I shall comment briefly on some of the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young).
– What about the honourable member for Gellibrand?
– I will get to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) soon. If one analyses some of the details and philosophies put forward by the honourable member for Port Adelaide one sees that they clearly identify the extravagances and recklessness of the Labor Party’s policies. I thought I was hearing incorrectly but it would appear that the honourable member for Port Adelaide was advocating a system of identification to make it easier for people to get social security payments. My experience in my electorate and throughout various parts of Sydney has been that people with a genuine need to be recipients of social security benefits have no problem in proving their identification. But if the Government resorts to an easy system of identification, as advocated by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, we will throw the whole social security system open to fraud. I do not think the Australian taxpayers want that to happen. The honourable member for Port Adelaide’s suggestion is advocating sheer recklessness and opening the social security system to people who are not in need but who are prepared to exploit the system.
The Government has got back to a sensible management policy. When the Opposition and the honourable member for Port Adelaide were in Government, that Government’s measures and management were measured on the amount of money spent. Thankfully, this Government has moved back from that situation. No longer do we measure our efficiency by the amount of money spent. The Labor Government did it and it bred inefficiency. The honourable member for Port Adelaide talked about various systems to overcome unemployment. This Government is sympathetic to the unemployed. It realises its responsibilities. It wants to get unemployment down, but our efforts to get unemployment down will not be measured by the amount of money we spend on various artificial schemes. It is part of the answer to the problem, but the main part of the answer and the main item of economic management that will reduce unemployment is a sound economy. It is not how much we are going to spend. We have provided the basis for a sound economy.
The Labor Party has provided only a basis for mismanagement and extravagance. This was identified at the Adelaide conference when the Labor Party clearly stated that if it happened to attain government it would increase the public sector and it would form public enterprises to compete with the private sector. In itself that can only increase the size of the Public Service, increase the burden on the taxpayer, reduce investment, reduce confidence in the economy, and, once again, only create a situation where unemployment will increase. Speaking on this point, the honourable member for Port Adelaide said that the Government has not been able to reduce the number of unemployed. I admit that, but we have done something that the Opposition could never do. We have virtually stabilised the unemployment rate in Australia. The Labor Government could never stabilise that situation. That in itself is quite an achievement.
Let us look at sensible monetary policies and some of the factors that have been discussed in the Estimates Committee. The honourable member for Gellibrand said that we are doing nothing about tax avoidance. I think we can easily prove him to be wrong. Comparing the number of people employed in the Taxation Department this year with the number employed last year, confirms this Government’s drive to cut down on tax avoidance. Over the last year the average number employed in the Taxation Department has gone up by a little over 400 people. I understand that a great number of those people are being employed in the examination and investigation section. This Government realises its responsibility to make sure that tax burdens are just and are shared fairly amongst the Australian community. The Opposition, when it had that chance, did nothing like that. Figures for the first three months of this financial year were released at the end of September. They show the benefit of sensible monetary management. At this time last year Australia’s deficit was almost $2, 000m. We have been successful in getting that deficit down from that $2,000m to $6 1 5m which is a remarkable achievement in 12 months. A lower deficit means future opportunities for lower taxation of the Australian people and future opportunities to create even greater confidence in the community. Through this creation of greater confidence there will be future opportunities to create further employment once again. That in itself will certainly stop the rise in unemployment and, I hope, reduce it.
I refer to an item in the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, namely, the distribution of money to the States. It is getting rather monotonous when the States regularly complain of the restraints imposed on them by the Federal Government. Very few people realise that that is not the case. In fact the amount of untied money given the States has increased by 14 per cent which is an increase well above the inflation rate.
– What did they do with their Budgets?
– The honourable member for Berowra asks: What did they do with their Budgets? No State in Australia has had to run any sizeable deficit over the past 12 months. Each State has been able to meet its program. No State has had any financial difficulty. But at the same time the Federal Government has had to take some hard measures and exercise this sensible management of the monetary policies. At the same time we have had to run a sizeable deficit. We have been generous to the States. The figures in the Budget clearly show that there has been an increase in untied money to the States in the last 1 2 months of over $700m. We have been able to manage the economy sensibly and at the same time we have been able to get efficiency in our expenditure and maintain generosity in those areas where expenditure is essential.
I come back to the statements made by the honourable members for Port Adelaide and Gellibrand. The honourable member for Gellibrand made no reference to inflation. He obviously does not realise that inflation is a factor that destroys the economy. Inflation is a factor that takes away from those who can least afford the loss. Rarely does this word ‘inflation’ appear in any speeches of the Opposition. The Opposition never mentions it because it is ashamed of its past. It is ashamed of the fact that it had inflation running at the rate of 17 per cent but that inflation is now under control. In closing, I think I should refer to the consumer price index figure- 2.3 per cent- that came out only yesterday, which confirms the management of this Government.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to take the opportunity provided by this debate to comment on the experiment that we have conducted with the Estimates committees. It is clear that there are very differing views in this House about the success of those committees, but I think there are certain advantages which are indisputable. First of all there is no doubt that they are much more successful as an informationgathering process than the procedures for debating the Estimates which were followed in previous years. One needs only to compare the amount of information dredged out of Ministers in last year’s Estimates debates with the information that has been secured from Ministers and public servants this year. There can be no doubt that in relation to information-gathering the Estimates committee system is a far more successful procedure. I hope that the benefits of that information gathering will be seen not just in this very limited debate- I want to say something more about that in a moment- but in the course of a whole year.
Secondly, the Estimates committees have enabled a relatively structured discussion between the back bench members of this Parliament and the political and bureaucratic executives. It is very difficult to think of any other opportunity that is provided in the general business of this House for such a discussion to take place. As a result of this kind of interchange in these committees we have also had more opportunities for adequate answers than are provided by what has become a parody, that is, Question Time. I think the fact that supplementary questions are possible in the Estimates committees and the fact that the advisers are on hand ensure a more effective questioning procedure than we have in Question Time in the House. We therefore get a more effective means of cross-examination than any other provided in the House. The honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) noted the other night that we all need to improve our techniques of questioning in these situations. No doubt we also need to impose on ourselves some greater self-discipline, but that is part of the learning process of adapting ourselves to new institutions.
I think too the system has enabled us to make judgments about the Ministers and about civil servants, which is an essential responsibility of all members of this House. One of the roles of members of parliament in a democracy is to make continuous judgments about the Executive. These Estimates committees have certainly contributed to my ability to make judgments about the Ministers and their advisers. As the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) noted, it may well be that as a result of the inter-action which has been provided by these committees, we will have a more effective and sensitive government in the coming year.
However, it is important that those of us who have supported these reforms and who have been enthusiastic about the experiment should note that considerable criticisms of the Estimates committees have been voiced by members of this House. Firstly, I think it is important to recognise whether these criticisms are fundamentalwhether they are inherent in the nature of the Estimates committees system- or whether they are contingent, that is, deriving from the rather inauspicious circumstances under which the committees were set up. It is true that there is a nostalgia for the good old days- for the days before Estimates committees. I am afraid that on both sides of this House there is a suspicion of institutional innovation. I do not think that is peculiarly distinctive to the conservative side of the House. Secondly, as one would expect, there are clearly differing talents amongst the members of this House. Of course, committee procedures do not always suit some types of talents, just as the procedures of the House satisfy other types of talents. The rumbustious political orator is not well suited to the nature of Estimates committee work. The demagogue who has a mania for publicity is also not particularly suited to committee procedures. Such committees do not provide great opportunities for political stunts. Given these differing qualities, we can expect some criticism because of the particular types of opportunities that different institutional procedures offer different people.
Despite these qualifications the general point can be made that the development by the legislature of better information-seeking procedures is simply inevitable. It is an inevitable feature of twentieth century societies. Information has nowadays become power and in the highly bureaucratic societies in which we exist the legislature must seek to challenge the bureaucratic monopoly of information. The Estimates committee system properly developed provides one way of doing this. One of the weaknesses of this legislature, and particularly of course of this House, is that by comparison with many other legislatures it has been tardy in the development of adequate and effective information-gathering procedures.
Another objection to the Estimates committees is that they detract from the House of Representatives itself, interfering with the business in the House, distracting from the representative function and downgrading the representative chamber. A part answer to that criticism is that the Estimates committees are simply an extension of the House of Representatives. They are governed by the same rules, subject to privilege, open to the public, recorded in Hansard and of a partisan composition similar to the House as a whole. A related and important objection is that the Estimates committees de-politicise our activities, minimising the critical attacking political function that is an essential part of the democratic system of government. There is no doubt that the Estimates committees de-politicise activity. They are not conducive to vigorous and uninhibited political debate in the same way as this House. But perhaps it is desirable that there be a whole range of functions within this legislature and we may not desire that every procedure that takes place in this Parliament should be characterised by the adversary style of political debate.
I think many of the criticisms that have been launched against the Estimates committees derive from the rather unfortunate circumstances in which the experiment was introduced. Firstly, the experiment was evolved in a partisan fashion and not as I believe reform in this chamber should evolve, that is, as the result of bipartisan consultation. I think if it had resulted from bipartisan consultation the issue of de-politicisation, which affects the Opposition much more than it affects the Government, would have been given greater consideration and more care would have been taken to see that the Estimates committees were designed not to limit some of the political activities which are essential to the Estimates debates. Secondly, the experiment was introduced by a government which was prepared to tolerate, and even to accommodate, Estimates committees but which was quite unprepared to make any real sacrifices for them. For example, it was clear from the outset that the provision of Estimates committees was in no way to be permitted to jeopardise the legislative program of the Government. Many of the time-tabling difficulties complained of by members derive from that fact. Thirdly, the experiment was introduced one month after the presentation of the Budget and was never able adequately to cope with this delay. Failures in preparation and the totally inadequate time in the House for consideration of the Estimates committees reports stemmed from this belated introduction. In my view we could have had a much more effective Estimates debate if we had been given adequate time in the House to use the information received in the Estimates committees. I believe that that would have been possible if the Estimates committees had been set up earlier and not one month into the debate on the Appropriation Bills.
I wish to suggest four reforms that we might consider in relation to these committees in the coming year. I suggest firstly that the Estimates committees should be set up co-incident with the presentation of the Budget; secondly, that the appropriate material for committee members should be provided when the committees are established; thirdly, that the committees begin to meet two weeks after the presentation of the Budget and that their meeting times coincide with the debate on the Appropriation Bills in the
House- that will overcome some of the timetabling difficulties; and fourthly, that there be a far more generous provision of time to consider the reports of the Estimates committees in the House as a whole. This will enable the effective political utilisation of the material gathered and will counter the charges that the experiment depoliticises the business of the House and undermines its representative functions. Finally, and this is a general consideration, we are a Parliament of very limited resources- limited in parliamentary personnel, limited in staff resources, and limited in physical resources. We might well think, in fact, of combining Estimates committees. Joint Estimates committees involving both the House and the Senate might represent a far more effective utilisation of limited resources and prevent some of the duplication that now occurs.
– I was amused to hear the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) speaking about the professors of politics that do come into the House these days. But, of course, there are professors of politics of various sorts. I would hope that the honourable member for Hindmarsh would see himself as a professor of politics in the truest sense of the word in that he is very learned in these matters. One would certainly like to regard him, when he leaves this chamber, as a professor emeritus of politics.
– I might change my mind and not go.
-The honourable member suggests that he might change his mind. I am sure that is a matter entirely for his side of the House. The matter I would like to address myself to before passing on to departmental Estimates is that touched upon by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett). I would certainly like to support the general thrust of their remarks in favour of a continuation of the Estimates committees as they have been set up this year, with a number of improvements that I think might be brought about. The general tenor of the remarks of the honourable member for Moore related to the nature of the material that should be presented to these committees. Certainly, I find the nature of the material deficient, particularly in the financial sense and particularly in a sense that there is not enough project information. This, of course, relates to the whole budgeting approach of governments. I would support his remarks about the necessity to improve the whole budgeting process so that we know more about individual projects and their worth in relation to other projects. We ought to know which ones are just continuations, which ones are new and which ones might be cut back in much more detail so that we can discuss them more adequately.
The criticisms of the committees made by the honourable member for Bonython, which were made in a general context of support for them, I think, are quite valid. I hope that his remarks will be noticed by those who are looking at these matters, particularly by the honourable member for Moore. I think it would be to the benefit of the whole House and the Australian community generally if we had more time to question in greater detail, if we had preparatory time, if we had the papers earlier as suggested by the honourable member for Bonython. I think it is essential that we regard this experiment as a thin edge of the wedge and not as an unsuccessful experiment as some honourable members would claim. I think it is quite easy to criticise something that has been done less well than it might have been done. Following the experiment this year, I think there are a number of improvements we can make next year and in subsequent years.
In a paper written recently by Mr James Walter, a research student in the Parliamentary Library, about what he termed- I do not like the word much- the aculturation of new members to this Parliament, a number of points were made about the views that the new members had about the usefulness of the Parliament itself compared with the usefulness of the committees in the party rooms and other things that went on that were not in the public gaze. I believe these are valid criticisms of this chamber, in particular. I believe a great deal more of much more profound significance should occur within the public gaze. I believe that a more intelligent use of this mechanism of Estimates committees and legislation committees would be a very good way of bringing that about. I certainly think that all of us should be able to feel just as proud of the work we do in public, within the committees or this chamber, as we do behind the scenes in the party committees or in the party rooms. I think the general direction of that must improve over the life, at least, of those members who have come into the Parliament since 1977 and who have expressed these views as reported by this research fellow.
I would like now to pass on to the estimates for the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. I would like to take up the question of unemployment and inflation which, of course, is right in the midst of the political issues of our time. Recently, we had some statements from churchmen, from social workers, from economists and other quite genuinely concerned people in the community expressing the view that the Government can no longer give priority to fighting inflation ‘at the expense of the unemployed’. They say: ‘We must ease off our battle against inflation in order to allow employment to increase. The social cost of the beat-inflation-first strategy is too great’. The Sydney Morning Herald recently conducted a survey on people’s attitudes to unemployment and reported with a headline ‘Division remains on priorities’. It is important to understand that the question ‘Would you be prepared to accept an increase in inflation in order to reduce unemployment?’ is nonsensical. If inflation rises, unemployment will rise too. There is no trade-off between inflation and unemployment.
Well intentioned social workers delude themselves and those they serve when they make these social conscience statements. One would have thought that the experience of the last few years would have taught everyone the lesson that if prices rise in an inflationary manner, pressures build up for wages to rise in compensation. Because of the effect of taxes, which take out part of the return from wages, the wage claims usually will be for more than the increase in prices. When wages go up employers seek to make economies and reduce staff, thus adding to the unemployed. Rising inflation also creates uncertainty in the business climate, making investors wary and leading management to delay spending on new projects until prices stabilise. Employment is therefore lost in the capital goods industries which supply the buildings and equipment, and, of course, the new jobs are not found in the new facilities that would have been created had these investment decisions been made.
In response to this argument, the Labor Party says: ‘You have had four years to reduce unemployment by reducing inflation and it has not worked. The time has now come to reverse this policy and provide jobs’. That is what we hear every day from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and others. This is equivalent to the case of a driver going down a hill with brakes that are not working very well but which at least are slowing the car down, being advised to take his foot ofl” the brake and place it on the accelerator. A moment’s reflection shows just how silly the argument is. Yet, it is amazing how many community leaders start to use it when they panic over unemployment.
The other argument often used is that jobs should be created by government spending. The trouble with this solution is that increased government spending must be balanced by increased taxation, otherwise it is inflationary. Increased taxation removes some of the spending capacity of individuals and firms and makes them able to purchase fewer goods, and therefore jobs are lost in the private sector. We must, remember that from May 1974 to May 1975, under the Labor Government, 100,000 extra jobs were provided on the public payroll. But over the same period 155,000 jobs were lost in the private sector, making a net loss of jobs in that period of 55,000. During that period, of course, prices, wages and taxes all rose alarmingly. The only ways to achieve a lasting improvement in the employment situation are either through a general economic upturn or, alternatively, through the removal of rigidities in the labour market. Now, the difficulty in removing rigidities in the labour market- for example, the high wages for unskilled juniors relative to their real worth to an employer, penalty rates of various kinds and manning restrictions of various kinds- is that it involves the reduction of privileges of the employed currently entrenched in industrial awards. Of course, as we all know, there are constitutional and practical barriers in the way of doing this. Nonetheless, I think that we should examine all these awards to see where there are restrictions which are creating unemployment. We must try to do something about those awards.
-This is an Estimates debate of sorts about a most fiercely contractionary, wrong and bad Budget. I think this debate in itself is a bit of an abomination and I concur particularly with the criticisms of the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett). I suppose that I will spend five minutes of my meagre 10 minutes of speaking time talking about the process we are engaged in, rather than getting down to what I would like to talk about. But as the Estimates committees have been an experiment and an innovation I think we need to talk about them a little. By and large I lack the eloquence of the honourable member for Bonython. I do not have many objections to the House of Representatives Estimates committees but I think that there is a lot of room for improvement. We also ought to have a decent debate in this House. We cannot deal with 17 departments in one sitting. About half of us will want to speak in the debate. Each of us will have only 10 minutes in which to speak on all those 17 departments.
I realise full well that scrutiny, efficiency, accountability, et cetera of the Government’s departments are the order of the day. The public is demanding that there be more attention paid to this. We have Senate Estimates committees, Expenditure committees and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. As a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I would like to say that I am a little alarmed that its role is being supplanted by other bodies in the Parliament, It seems to me that the Public Accounts Committee has been there all along and it should be given more powers. Be that as it may, it seemed to me that the House of Representatives Estimates committees amounted to a question without notice session to Ministers, or more generally to a retinue of first assistant secretaries.
– They know more than the Ministers.
– I realise, as the honourable member for Prospect says, that they know more than the Ministers. The meeting is held in committee rooms out of the glare of publicity.
– Not like here.
– It is not like here. I am now talking to two policemen, two attendants and a lady. For example, one of the questions that we could have raised with the Department of Primary Industry concerned the beef incentive payments scheme. We could have raised a few more questions with the departmental officers on that matter, but it is already before the Public Accounts Committee. The process of that got that scheme before the Public Accounts Committee was that the Auditor-General had pointed to its problems. The Public Accounts Committee then examined the comments by the Auditor-General and we then decided to make that scheme the subject of an inquiry. We called for evidence, heard the witnesses and had long sessions with the Department and all the people concerned. By that process we effected scrutiny and accountability and eventually, I hope, we will get to the nub of what went wrong with that scheme and what deficiencies were in it. If honourable members really want to examine things they have to go through that process and examine them in detail.
I do not think that we have learnt a lot from the Estimates committees. I am not knocking the idea completely but there is need for improvement. When honourable members take on a department like the Department of Defence- a handful of us were there for a couple of hoursthe questions are so general that the answers do not mean anything. If the questions got very specific, far too much time was taken up in reply.
One can argue for ever on some of these matters and keep up the inquiry forever. I want more time in this House, not in the less public committees where I can be snowed by public servants or where I can be persuaded to accept the consensus view. It is communist countries which have governing bureaucracies. We have a parliamentary democracy of sorts and it is up to honourable members to make sure that that system prevails. The reason I am here is to carry forward the views of the people I represent and the views of the Party I represent. I am not here simply to ask technical questions. I think that I am here to surface the views held by the community, even if those views are often very wrong. If my views are very wrong I think it is important that those views are surfaced and spoken about publicly rather than that they be put before rather private committees. Having wasted some of my time, what I really want to talk about is the Department of Primary Industry.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to spend the rest of my time discussing the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. Overall the estimates for this year represented a cut of about 20 per cent in real terms in rural spending. The chief cuts were with respect to nitrogenous fertilisers and the reconstruction funds, which were cut by about 63 per cent, as well as the 37 per cent cut in meat research and the cut of about $9m in wool research funds. On top of that there were the measures in the May mini-Budget which particularly disadvantaged the cattle industry. The Government uses the excuse that the rural industries are going through a good time at present and can well afford these measures.
I am not going to criticise these measures in detail, but I would like to point out with respect to the Department of Primary Industry that the total figures, in terms of government commitments, do not always mean that much because lots of payments are made by farmers into and out of rural funds. Often the aggregates involved have a distorting effect on some of the Treasury estimates with respect to the deficit and monetary measures. What I would like to say in general terms is that I would be more critical of the fact that over the last four years the Government has not taken the initiatives that it could have taken in some areas of the rural area without involving itself in much expenditure. In contradistinction to that, I would like to point out how pleased I was to see that the Government did take a very important initiative- that is, the one it took in respect of storage facilities for grain, hay and fodder. Since about 1973 on-farm facilities for the storage of grain, hay and fodder have been subject to depreciation in the usual way. That was increased in this Budget by the Government bringing into play a special depreciation allowance of an additional 20 per cent.
In analysing the impact of that I suppose the first thing that we have to talk about is whether wheat crops of the order of 18 million tonnes a year will continue in the future or whether the long-run average crops will be even greater than that. Over the last few years we have seen that there has been a particular problem in the handling of grain, in storage and in transport facilities. The Government is to be complimented for seeing this and trying to do something about it. The problem has been that the first advance for grain is paid at acceptance into storage. When so much of the grain could not be accepted in the last few years there was a real problem.
Private storage worries the bulk handling authorities, particularly in respect of insect infestation. If individual producers are to produce bigger crops on their farms it is important that alternative measures be taken. I understand that the scheme really has not been spelt out. The Australian Wheat Board will have to vet the quality of the storage facilities. I am quite sure that they will be mainly for grains. The estimate is for expenditure of $6m this year but I think that a figure of $60m would be closer to it because there is a great need in this area.
The importance of this matter was highlighted in the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the wheat industry when it took a lot of evidence from the various bulk handling authorities. By and large the bulk handling and storage of wheat is a mess in this country. Quite a bit of Government action is needed. If the Commonwealth Government tries to deal with this matter it will present problems because each State is different. Each State has State accountability, which raises another complex question. In South Australia and Western Australia the storage of grains is handled by co-operatives financed by farmers and the storage has tended to be concentrated on the seaboard. There has been some criticism of that. It has also been said that perhaps there has been over-investment. We really do not know about that. South Australia and Western Australia raise their own funds and the farmers pay. In Queensland, the storage is vested with the Wheat Board. The Queensland grain industry, whether it be coarse grains or wheat, is the most efficient in many ways. The grain is grown in one contiguous area. But the rail link to the seaboard and the terminals themselves are somewhat deficient. There is need for investment in that area.
There is a different situation in New South Wales and Victoria, which have bulk handling authorities. The in-loading capacity at Geelong in Victoria is deficient, and the out-loading capacity of the facility at Portland is deficient. In New South Wales the situation is even more complicated by rail problems. The Hunter Valley has the problem of the freighting out of coal. We really do not know whether there should be more terminals in New South Wales, such as a terminal at Botany Bay, or more sub-terminals. The point that I would like to make is that the States need to do more rigorous studies of the problems they face in this area before they come to the Commonwealth Government. Each State situation is different. Eventually the Commonwealth Government will get involved to a degree greater than the first step with respect to the depreciation allowance. If the problems are looked at in depth by the States and they then come to the Commonwealth, I think the argument will be overwhelming for the Commonwealth eventually to be involved financially in this area.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is something of a joke for the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) to criticise what this Government has done for primary industry after the way in which the previous Labor Government- the honourable member was then a member of this House- knocked the rural sector. However, I will leave that to my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles). I would like to go back to what the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said in this debate and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) in the amendment he has circulated. They had much to say about unemployment. I want to say to the Australian people- I know that in their hearts, and voting intentions, they acknowledge it- that this Government is every bit as concerned about unemployment as the Opposition, and that to restore growth and to get unemployment down is the whole thrust and ultimate purpose of our policies- of our anti-inflation and cost containment policy and our industry policy.
I want to take this opportunity, in speaking to the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce, to point to what the Government has done to foster the development of the manufacturing industry, which is a major creator of jobs in the Australian economy. Specifically, direct outlays related to manufacturing will more than double in 1979-80, compared with 1978-79. Export expansion grants will rise from $20m to $170m and, in addition, funds for export market development grants will increase by $7m to $45m. This represents an overall increase of 270 per cent for export incentives. This is firm evidence of the Government’s policy commitment to the achievement of a more export oriented industry structure.
In the Budget the Government has also recognised the need for industry to be highly innovative and technologically advanced if it is to compete effectively in the environment of the 1980s, hence funding for industral research and development assistance has been increased by 33 per cent, following a 75 per cent increase last year. Funding for productivity improvement programs is up 65 per cent on the expenditure last year. Direct funding of specific programs for small business has also been increased.
The lift in assistance to industry, through the Budget, is not confined to increased outlays. A number of new taxation concessions involving substantial cost in terms of revenue forgone has also been implemented. These include special taxation allowances that have been introduced to encourage industry to convert from oil-fired industrial heating equipment to other fuels. The overall cost in revenue forgone of these and other existing measures, such as the investment allowance, is estimated at $267m for 1979-80 for the manufacturing sector. I should mention further that the retention allowance for private companies has been increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent at a net estimated cost to revenue of $30m
All this, despite the need for Budget restraint, is evidence of the Government’s firm commitment to an industry policy aimed at providing a sound basis for industry growth and development, and thus the provision of expanding numbers of meaningful and soundly-based job opportunities for Australians in this great sector of the economy. As the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) pointed out recently in this House- and the Minister is to be congratulated for what he has achieved as evidenced in particular by these Budget provisions- the 1 970s have been a difficult period, and one which future historians will regard as- to quote him- a time of transition in Australia ‘. For two or more decades following World War II Australia’s economic development followed a particularly stable path. Central to this was the development of our manufacturing sector, following a strategy of import replacement. A prolonged period of growth sustained a plentiful supply of jobs for a growing work force. The early 1970s, however, saw many changes to the circumstances which made our post-war development a reality. The mineral boom, a downturn in our population growth, the energy shortage, rapid inflation, and a wages explosion- which I might say was fostered by the previous Administration- import competition from newly industrialised countries, particularly in Asia, and the world recession altered the bases of past success. These changing circumstances have markedly affected the course of our development. We must learn to live with change- that is central- and seek to mould it to our national interest. This will require our industries to adopt new attitudes towards change and competition and in particular to look increasingly beyond the limited environment of the Australian market.
Those principles just mentioned were fundamental to the Crawford Study Group report, and I will say more about that in a moment. I stress that, in broad thrust, the Government has accepted the package of measures proposed by the Crawford group, and, indeed, key elements, in whole or in part, were already in place when the group reported. It was in April 1978 that the Government introduced its package of export development measures. Above all, I stress what the Government has achieved in restoring Australia’s international competitive position. This is the greatest single factor in the restoring of health to the manufacturing sector of Australia, which was brought low by the policies of the previous Administration over 1973-75-1 do not want to spend time going over that ground. The position today is that the competitiveness of the Australian economy has been restored to the level of 10 years ago or better. The Australian people must understand that because it is this that enables Australian industry to compete effectively with imports at low levels of assistance and to expand exports. This has been achieved by our policy of cost containment, increased productivity, and a more competitive exchange rate. Australia ‘s manufactured exports expanded by 30 per cent from 1977-78 to 1 978-79. The significance of that can be understood when it is appreciated that manufactured exports in total currently generate about 300,000 jobs. So the House can see that a doubling of such exports which is not an unrealistic goal, would go a long way towards relieving the unemployment problem. That means continuing with the policies we have pursued in recent years of containing inflation and costs and stimulating productivity.
In concluding, I want to refer briefly to protection policy, where a good deal of rather artificial heat is still generated in the name of protection versus free trade- a polarisation of the position that went out with the ark! The Government’s commitment to fostering a more specialised, technologically advanced, internationally competitive, export oriented manufacturing industry, less reliant on Government support, inevitably means a commitment to achieve a less complicated tariff structure based on gradual- I stress the word gradual- progress towards more stable, constant and lower tariff levels than in the past. Indeed, significant progress towards such a tariff structure has already been made through the tariff review program. I underline these two points: Firstly, the Crawford Study Group stressed, and the Government entirely accepts, that further significant steps in this direction are dependent on the positive of a comprehensive industrial development policy being in place and working. As I have said, significant initiatives in that respect have already been taken but there is some way to go. Secondly, reductions in protection associated with this policy thrust will be phased in gradually over time in accordance with the capacity of industry and the economy to adjust and to accommodate to the economic and social consequences.
There is nothing to fear from change or the Government’s commitment to the fostering of a more competitive manufacturing industry complementary to our great rural and mining industries. I have every confidence that Australian manufacturers will respond to the great challenge of these changing times- and to its great opportunities for growth and the provision of jobs for Australians.
– While we are dealing with the Estimates committees I would like to say a few words about the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. Let me state a small truism to begin with: Australians are a race of meat eaters. I do not think many people would deny that. I would say to the Treasurer (Mr Howard), who is sitting at the table, that from the look of the jowl he developed on his recent overseas tour, he has been having more than his fair share of meat pies. I do not think anybody would deny that a steak or a meat pie is as Australian as the kangaroo or Don Bradman. As somebody who managed to exist in the meat industry for a long time, I am rather
E leased that we are meat eaters. Of course, we ave had the odd vegeterian in Australia. I well remember when Murray Rose was winning gold medals at the Olympic Games for swimming and loudly telling everybody that he was feeding himself on sunflower seeds and seaweed. In the meat industry we were glad when he emigrated to America. We were rather pleased to see the end of him. He was far too good an advertisement for the non-meat eaters. I think it is fair to say that Australians are meat eaters. In fact, they are amongst the biggest meat eaters in the world, if one looks at the statistics.
I am disturbed by the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry because my reading of them indicates that the Government is putting a separate tax on meat eaters. I know that we have turned every petrol pump into a tax agency- we accept that- but when the Government starts attacking the basic traditions of Australians’ culinary desires, when it starts attacking the meat eaters, it has gone beyond the pale. The reason I suggest that that is the case is very simply proved if one looks at the estimates for Primary Industry. In this Budget the Government has seen fit to treble the levy on the slaughter of cattle. I will not argue with the philosophical point that the Government puts forward about transferring the levy on cattle slaughtered from the producer to the owner of the stock at the point of slaughter. That is a fait accompli now and I will not argue the merits or demerits of it. The Australian Labor Party put its view quite strongly when the change was mooted. We felt that it was immoral to do that and that the producer, who at the moment is receiving enormous money for his cattle- that is fair enough- should be paying the levy. However, the Government having decided to alter the place in the slaughter chain where it collects the money, then decided to treble it. The effect of that has been rather marked for people who eat meat.
I shall quote a few figures. This year the Government will raise $16,250,000 from a charge associated with the inspection of meat for export. That involves not only export meat but also meat which happened to be killed in an export abattoir and which comes on to the local market. Last year the expenditure in this area was nothing, but the income was $16,250,000. The Government raises another levy for the eradication of disease. Last year the expenditure in this area was $9,700,000; this year the estimated revenue is $22,960,000. Another levy is raised for research and marketing. Last year the expenditure was $7m; this year the revenue raised will be $10,686,000. In total, the estimated revenue is $49,896,000 as against last year’s expenditure of $16,754,000. That is just a little excess of $33m
The people of Australia, those inveterate meat eaters, the people who keep the farmer producing cattle, the people who follow the Australian tradition of eating meat pies and steak and eggs, are being taxed to the tune of $3 3 m for the pleasure of being meat eaters. I find that rather exceptional. The simple fact is that the Government is presently undertaking a promotion to get people to eat meat. We have all seen the advertisements on television that the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation has undertaken, and I applaud them. The ‘Feed the Man Meat’ and Samson O’Brien, Your Friendly Local Butcher’ advertisements are some of the best on television. But why spend that sort of money?
– It is full of cholesteral
-The honourable member for Robertson is in no position to speak about people with excessive cholesteral levels, looking at his ample girth. Perhaps he is a good advertisement for meat pies. It is pointless to spend a couple of million dollars on a promotion campaign to encourage people to eat meat if on the other hand the Government is to impose a tax on meat eaters to the extent of $33m. That seems to me to be a false sense of economics, but that is not unusual for this Government. I suggest that it is fair enough to raise $22m for the eradication of diseases if the Government intends to spend that sort of money. Last year it spent $9m in this area.
We all know, and I think we are pleased to recognise, that disease in cattle is a rather diminishing factor in the Australian agricultural scene. I am pleased to recognise that but if the campaign for the eradication of disease in cattle is progressively costing less because of the effectiveness of the program that has been undertaken, why is it necessary to raise more money- in fact another $ 13m in this area this year- if it is not going to be spent? It simply occurs to me that this is another tax by stealth, a tax imposed on the meat eaters of Australia who basically comprise the whole of the population. I question the validity of the Government’s philosophy in on the one hand spending money to encourage people to eat meat and on the other hand taxing them for doing just that. To me that seems to be a rather peculiar way of organising the business. But more particularly, seeing that the Government has some fascination with animal diseases, I find it rather peculiar that the Government is so insensitive about the workers in the meat industry who are charged with the job of slaughtering animals that have been detected as disease carriers. The percentage of animals involved is very small. It is approximately one per cent of the total herd. The Government runs a series of tests on herds to ascertain which cattle may be infected with the main diseases to which cattle are susceptible- Q fever, brucellosis and leptospirosis.
When these cattle are detected as having one of those diseases they are killed in an abattoir. The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union has been trying for a long time to get the Federal Government to evolve a system whereby these cattle, once they are detected as carriers of a disease, are killed at the nearest abattoir to the point of detection. One reason the union wants that done is to avoid having to transfer the cattle long distances. If they are killed at the nearest export abattoir the men there are provided with clean clothing every day. It would appear to be a sensible process, as these diseases are not transferable from human to human but from beast to human, to ensure that the people slaughtering them have clean outfits every day to work in. This Government appears to be obsessed about controlling cattle diseases when one looks at the amount of money it is raising in order to fight diseases. One could imagine that if it is very much obsessed with the eradication of diseases it would do something to protect the people who are charged with the slaughtering of diseased animals. But the response from this Government to the process of enabling these cattle to be killed at the nearest export abattoir is rather sad.
The Government’s attitude is typified in the reply received by the union from the former Minister for Primary Industry, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who said: ‘It is not possible, nor would it be reasonable, to demand co-operation from meat exporters and processors especially if they would suffer financial loss’. What a dreadful statement to make about something that can vitally affect the health of the people who are charged with slaughtering these animals. I would think that this Government, obsessed as it seems to be with the eradication of disease, would be equally responsible when it comes to protecting the health of the people who are charged with the responsibility of eliminating diseased cattle from the herd, but such is not the case. I ask the Treasurer, who is sitting at the table, to impress upon the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) the absolute necessity for these people to be protected. They are doing a job that is not very pleasant at the best of times. A job in a slaughterhouse is probably one of the most unpleasant that anybody could imagine. Slaughtering diseased cattle carries the possibility of workers contracting Q fever, brucellosis or leptospirosis, an inhuman and disastrous experience. One would think that the Government would adopt a more responsible attitude by listening to the arguments of the meat industry and of the union and insist that these cattle be killed at the nearest export works that are governed by the Department of Primary Industry inspectors because the men at these works are provided with clean protective clothing every day. That is the only way that these men can be protected.
-Contrary to the opinions expressed by a number of honourable members in this debate, I would like to say that I think the House of Representatives Estimates committees have worked well. Certainly there have been some rough edges but it would be a pity to do away with them on the first try. I think it is a necessary start to the reform of the proceedings of this House. We often seem to forget that we are charged not only with the legislative function but also with the responsibility for scrutinising the public expenditure which is undertaken by the authority of this Parliament on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia. It has become clear to me during the Estimates committees hearings that the way in which financial information is presented to the Parliament makes it almost impossible for us to monitor, scrutinise and evaluate public financial spending and administration in a meaningful way.
During the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Finance I made the point that Parliament has made little progress in seeking to redress this situation. The House of Representatives last revised its Standing Orders in connection with the Budget in 1962. The Joint Committee on Public Accounts last reported on the form of the Budget documents some 25 years ago. It is clear that the bureaucracy has done precious little in this area. The Department of Finance is responsible for the general oversight of the Government’s financial transactions, within Australia and outside of Australia, and it is responsible for researching management accounting techniques for application by departments. In my view it should give top priority to investigating ways and means of presenting financial information to this Parliament in a way which allows us to evaluate that expenditure in a more responsible manner.
This year the total outlays in the Budget which was introduced in August by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) amount to $3 1,692m. Obviously there is a bureaucratic readiness in Canberra to spend taxpayers’ money notwithstanding the political resolve of the Government to control it. But there has been an historical reluctance to evaluate that expenditure properly. We as the representatives of the taxpayers of Australia have a statutory obligation to act as a watchdog. At the present time this is not being achieved. The information received by the Parliament gives a record of expenditure but it does not really account for it. Reviews of economy and efficiency are undertaken by units within departments and more recently through the Audit Amendment Bill of 1978 the role of the Auditor-General has been extended to cover efficiency audits.
In contrast to developments which have occurred in relation to economy and efficiency, the House of Representatives Committee on Expenditure is the only parliamentary committee that evaluates the effectiveness of programs. But it can do this only on an ad hoc basis and it certainly cannot undertake this role over the whole range of government expenditure. To some extent history has been against us in this regard. Most of the information the Parliament receives is related to expenditure on inputs, salaries, maintenance, overtime, travel costs, office equipment and so forth. The documents we received during the Estimates committees hearings in the form of explanatory notes on departmental expenditure gave a detailed record of these inputs. This kind of presentation of expenditure may have been appropriate at a time when the Commonwealth operated administrative type departments. This has now changed because the scope of government expenditure in this country has increased. It is now directed at assisting individuals and organisations within our society. I mention that the departments covering the areas of health, welfare and education spend about $14.5 billion per annum, which is about 46 per cent of the total outlays of the Commonwealth. Obviously the extent and intent of public expenditure have changed over time. However, the process of scrutinising that expenditure has not changed. It is estimated that approximately one thousand separate public expenditure programs are in operation at any given time and between 98 per cent and 99 per cent of the annual Budget is presently accounted for by on-going expenditures.
Many of these on-going programs are administered over a long period. They gather their own momentum without ever being evaluated properly by this Parliament. We seem to appropriate moneys each year on the basis of what was spent in the previous year plus a little bit to cater for inflation. But we very seldom ask basic questions. It seems to me that the sign of a good Minister these days, particularly in the eyes of the bureaucracy, is the Minister who is able to extract the most money out of the Treasurer. I do not fully agree with that.
– Neither do I.
– I think the time comes when it is the responsibility of this chamber to evaluate those expenditures. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer interject that he does not use that as a yardstick in his evaluation of his colleagues in the Cabinet. These expenditures should be presented to the Parliament in the form of program statements. We need to know not just the costs of these programs but their objectives. We should examine this automatic funding process on a regular basis and find out whether or not the stated objectives of the expenditure are being met. In other words, we need an evaluation. We need to know whether the expenditure has been effective. I think it is quite amazing that in all the time since Federation this Parliament has not been given the information which enables this kind of assessment to be made.
We know that there are problems in arriving at program statements. There are problems in distributing overheads from various departments engaged in any single program. That certainly creates difficulties. Certainly many items in the Appropriation Bills and in Budget Paper No. 4 identify particular programs, but that information is partial. That identification is partial. There are similar limitations to the functional classification of Budget outlays in Budget Statement No. 3. So I urge the adoption, as far as possible, of program statements by the Government.
In that context I would certainly support the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure contained in the report entitled ‘Parliament and Public Expenditure’ which was introduced into this House earlier this year. It may be interesting to quote some of the evidence given to that Committee. The report stated:
Several departments supported development of a program-type information system. The Secretary of the Department of Transport said his Department was working towards a program approach to forward estimates He saw several advantages of this approach and said it allows management ‘to get a measure of output as opposed to input ‘, to consider alternatives and to assist in the determination of priorities . . . The Auditor-General said program information would ‘assist any evaluation by my office of the level of economy and efficiency achieved by the organisation.’
More interestingly, I think, is this statement:
The Under-Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said that if more resources were available and the question was where they could be best devoted then ‘the general thrust of the Committee’s approach towards greater provision (of information) on a program basis would be a high priority’.
So support within the bureaucracy is obviously there and I urge the Government to translate this latent sympathy into effective action through the Department of Finance.
Until this form of financial presentation occurs, the Estimates committees will be unable to carry out their functions properly and this Parliament will be denied an information base which would enable it to discuss public expenditure and priorities in a meaningful way. It is interesting to note that in the Estimates committee hearings relating to the Department of Finance held on Tuesday there was a bipartisan approach to this question. Members of the Opposition who were present supported the thrust of the arguments that I put to the committee. I was very pleased also to see that not only did Government members support the concept of trying to introduce program statements but that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) said that he must acknowledge the force of the arguments put. So I think that that is an encouraging start.
I urge the Government to adopt the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure. After all, it is not the expenditure of our money which we are evaluating; it is the money which comes from the taxpayers of Australia. If we are not spending it effectively, if it is not achieving its objectives, I think we should either give it back to the taxpayers in the form of lower taxes in this country or divert it to areas of real need where we know that stated objectives can be met. The introduction of these programs will certainly enable this Parliament to achieve one of its major statutory functions which hitherto it has not been able to perform because the information has not been available to us.
- [Hon. Ian Robinson] Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to say a few words tonight about the tourist industry. At the moment the world is undergoing an enormous boom in tourism. Very recently the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, said in a report to the United Nations that tourism is now the biggest industry in the world, bigger than oil, steel, coal and armaments. At the moment Australia is participating in that tourist boom and the latest figures, released recently, show that there has been a 28 per cent increase in the number of international tourists into Australia. While it is also true that there is an increase in the number of people going out of Australia, it would appear that at the moment we are starting to bridge the gulf between in-going and out-going tourists. I am often extremely surprised when I talk to officials and other people in the country, of all ranges and on both sides of politics, and they say to me: ‘Why would anybody want to come to Australia?’ The cultural cringe seems to be very infectious in this country and it is not the least apparent amongst some of our top bureaucrats. I am staggered that people would actually say such a thing, but it is said. It is one of the reasons, I believe, for the rather negative approach of governments and bureaucrats over the years.
I will not go over all of the areas of interest in this country but I will mention just a few. We have one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world- the Great Barrier Reef. The Red Centre is second to none and Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world. I am not just being parochial. If I lived in Gulargambone I would still say that Sydney is one of the most beautiful and exquisite cities in the world, and it is getting better. Canberra is an exciting place. It is one of the few well-planned, properly planned cities in the world. Australia has some of the finest beaches, some of the most interesting flora and fauna and some of the few remaining wilderness areas in the world. We have idyllic places like Tasmania, beautiful cities like Adelaide and Perth and so on.
– What about Bondi Beach?
-I could not agree more with the honourable member but let me say that I am glad he raised the question of Bondi Beach because I think there is a job to be done by the New South Wales State Government and by the local council to resurrect Bondi Beach. It is one of the greatest beaches in the world but it has been wrecked by some of the poorest, shoddiest developments that have been allowed to occur. I think it is one of Sydney’s tragedies. We need major redevelopment to make Bondi Beach one of the great attractions in the world, and not what it is at the moment.
It is 10 years tonight since I came into Parliament along with 10 or 1 1 other colleagues who have survived the rigours of the last few elections and I do not think there is anybody in this Parliament who really believes in totally free enterprise.
– Come on.
-The honourable member for Moore interjects but if we did we would not have tariffs; we would not have taxation incentives; we would not have subsidies; we would not have quotas, we would not have orderly marketing schemes, bounties, government expenditure in favour of various industries, grants, loans incentives and so on. Of course we do not. We have a mixed economy and it is a question of how much we tinker with it. It is about time we got away from the rhetoric of free enterprise versus socialism. Nobody believes in it. We have a mixture of both and that is what we are stuck with. The Government has indicated by some of the things it has done in the Budget that it believes that we need to tinker with industries.
We need to provide incentives to select industries which have potential for growth. That is what the Government has done. I commend it for doing that. The 2Vi per cent depreciation allowance introduced in the Budget is a very significant breakthrough. We are waiting for the introduction of the legislation. I will not take a long time to talk about it now. There are a few problems but we accept the proposition. We are glad that it is happening. We will go into the details of the problems that may arise in the future. I also commend the Government on the increase in the budget of the Australian Tourist Commission. Excellent stuff! It is an effective trebling of the amount of money to promote Australia overseas.
I was one of the members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism. I was very proud of the report brought down by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull). I think that the Committee did a very good job. We made many very sound recommendations. To the Government’s credit many of those recommendations have been implemented. However, on reflection- members of the Committee would probably agree with me- I think that we made one mistake. The mistake was that we- I am putting it as collective criticism of the Committee- tended to look at individual problems within the industry rather than stepping back a yard or two and taking the broad national view. We have helped to solve many of the problems but we have not yet developed a national strategy. We are still solving problems in an ad hoc way, one at a time. It would take me a long time to spell out a national strategy but I will mention some of the things that need to be looked at.
I have said many times before that if we are to develop the industry properly we have to develop a tourist track round Australia. We have to stop the situation that compels people to fly into the south-east corner of Australia, that is, Sydney and Melbourne. Eighty-two per cent of the visitors do that. We should structure the Australian domestic airlines so that people can fly into north Queensland, either Townsville or Cairns but probably Townsville. People could save themselves the backtrack fares which they are now forced to pay by flying from Sydney to Townsville and back to Sydney. They could fly into the north from Fiji, Noumea, Port Moresby, Singapore, Vila and so on, and then fly down the coast of Australia to the Gold Coast, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and then down to Hobart and Launceston. They could fly out through Adelaide and Penh or go through the centre to Darwin or they could fly out to New Zealand and Christchurch.
We should look closely at the problems of low cost accommodation. It is estimated that 50 per cent of Australians cannot afford to travel. To be able to travel people need a surplus income. Many people do not have a surplus income. We need to look at some pilot projects to provide accommodation for those people who presently cannot afford to go on holiday. We face a very significant problem in what I might refer to as wilderness resorts in the bush, the forests, the national parks and on our islands. To establish a hotel-motel resort on an island, for example, a person is faced with enormous capital costs. He has to provide wharves, an airport, electric generators, staff, accommodation and a whole range of accessories that he does not have to provide if he builds in a major capital city or town. If we are to get people to build resorts in those areas which can compete in quality and price, we have to do what many other countries, such as Ireland and New Zealand, have done. They have provided special incentives for resorts built in wilderness areas. I am pleased to see the Northern Territory is proceeding with the development of Uluru Village at Ayers Rock. This has been a national disgrace for a long time. It is marvellous to see that finally the project will be completed. I hope that we will further that concept of tourist villages by considering a similar type of thing at a place such as Fraser Island, where there has been great difficulties because of the winding down of the mule mining. Australia’s tourist industry is at a very exciting point. We are probably in the same situation as Britain was in the mid-1960s. We are ready to take off and become a major tourist destination for the rest of the world. We may even consider resurrecting the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism. Perhaps in six months it could be resurrected for a year to enable it to take a look at what we have done. We all realise now that more could be done. That Committee has been one of the great successes of the Parliament in that it has probably had more of its recommendations implemented than any committee in parliamentary history. The Government has acted upon its report. I would give consideration to its being reconstituted in the future.
- [Hon. Ian Robinson] Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It would almost seem to be predetermined these days that I follow the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in debates. We usually speak about similar subjects. In speaking on the Estimates tonight I will confine my comments to the estimates of the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Transport. I will make specific reference to tourism. One of the great things that has happened in the Parliament over recent years has been the bipartisan approach that has been taken by both the Opposition and the Government towards tourism. The honourable member for Robertson quite rightly said that it is fast developing into one of the great industries of Australia. It is at big as the motor vehicle industry. It is almost as big as the mining industry. Given that less than two years ago the Department of the Treasury did not even acknowledge tourism as an industry, I believe that we have come a great way.
I was very interested tonight to hear the comments of the honourable member for Robertson about the need for a national tourist plan. I agree with him completely. Perhaps the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism should be resurrected to deal with some specific briefs over a short period and to examine what should be done now for the industry. The point he made about the plan is very relevant. I think that his comments will be taken on board by all members of the Select Committee in as much as we tended to be a little piecemeal in the areas we looked at. Certainly, the need for a plan is becoming critical. I suggest to the Government as a matter of utmost urgency that it look at the prospect of devising an overall tourist strategy for Australia. We need it very much. The only other comment I shall make at the moment about the Select Committee’s report is simply that in some respects perhaps we were not critical enough of some aspects of the tourist industry. If we form ourselves together again as a committee we should be perfectly honest about some of the bad developments that are starting to occur in the tourist industry at the moment. Who knows, perhaps that committee will be reconstituted.
If tourism is not the biggest industry in the world at the moment it is certainly the second biggest. This year it will be worth $380 billion world-wide. Fifty million international tourists will be travelling from country to country this year. If Australia can get its share of international tourism the benefits will be obvious. I also support the comments of the honourable member for Robertson regarding the increase in the funds for the Australian Tourist Commission. The increase has been a massive 98 per cent. It will allow greater promotion overseas. The depreciation allowance on hotels is just the start. It is a major breakthrough and something that I was very pleased to see happen. It is a start; perhaps we can build on it. Another area we should be looking at- this was alluded to by the honourable member for Robertson- is low cost accommodation. It surprises me that at the moment there is no register of the availability of hotel rooms in Australia. Many rooms in country and suburban hotels could be done up and hired out at a very cheap rate.
The initial figures on the international tourists coming to Australia in the first seven months of this year show, interestingly enough, that there has been a big increase in the number of Germans visiting the country. That market has grown in excess of 130 per cent. Their particular demand has been for self-contained accommodation. They have been looking for flats and units at the right price. The nature of the German tourist is interesting. He does not necessarily want to visit a capital city. He likes to get out into the country areas. I believe that there would be a great future for some of the old country hotels if people saw that there was more in being a hotelier than providing a bar trade or a counter lunch. They could move into the area of doing up their accommodation and providing what could be unique and interesting accommodation for overseas visitors. Perhaps we should stress that point to them. At the moment there seems to be a cut price liquor war in most States of Australia and many hoteliers are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.
This could be one area that could help the industry overall. Indeed, it could make sure that a little more income is going to the hotel industry than perhaps is going there at present. The figures showing an increase of 28 per cent in the number of inbound tourists are quite true. The outbound number has grown by only 12 per cent so the travel gap is starting to narrow. But on the initial figures, the point that worries me more than anything else- it had to happen- is the high percentage of people coming to Australia who are visiting friends and relatives. Nobody is going to deny that these people are going to be a help to the economy because obviously they are going to eat food, drink particular beverages, go on tours and buy souvenirs. But Australia has yet to see the full impact of the tourist flow into the tourist plant of Australia. The whole point about tourists visiting friends and relatives is simply that they do stay with friends and relatives and do not use our hotels, restaurants and a lot of the other back-up facilities. We must make sure that we really play on the specific tourist market so that we can get people using that sort of accommodation.
About two hours ago the new agreement on cheap airfares to and from Asia with the Association of South East Asian Nations was announced. One would hope that those fares would be used wisely and well. However, there was one aspect of the estimates for the Department of Transport that did concern me. Last Thursday morning, during the grievance debate, I mentioned in a speech some of the fare cutting practices that were happening in the travel and airline industries, particularly in Melbourne. I was a little perturbed- unfortunately I was involved in a debate in the House so I could not attend the Estimates Committee hearing on the estimates for the Department of Transport- to hear an officer of that Department say, in answer to a question concerning fare discounting, that as far as he was concerned, since the introduction of the new air fare regimes, the legal discounting of airline tickets had been virtually eliminated. I am sorry, but that statement is just not true. Certainly, the reaction from the travel agency industry in recent days has shown that it is not true. Indeed, many of the independent travel agents round Australia are very close to going to the wall right now. If we are not very careful, the only travel agents we will have in operation in this country will be the major consolidators and major banks. I think that would be unfortunate. I can only hope that the introduction of these ASEAN fares will help even more to eliminate some of the discounting practices going on.
In my speech last Thursday morning I mentioned the fare structures that were being sold in Melbourne. They are really quite cheap. It is great for the consumer, but if we are really serious about checking the tickets going out of
Australia and trying to make some son of pretence at protecting Qantas Airways Ltd then really some questions have to be asked of some of the officers of the Department of Transport. Ticket inspectors are appointed and paid big money to go through the tickets. I am not saying that that particular officer I have mentioned is not doing his job. What I would rather say is that it is almost impossible for him to do his job. Most international airlines have major overseas clearing houses for their airline tickets. I know of one major international airline that employs 44 people in Hong Kong. These people do nothing but sort out the bodgy tickets from the real tickets and sort out the revenue that is going to a particular airline. It is almost impossible for anyone to pick a fake ticket these days.
There is an awful lot of back payment in Australia to travel agents who are doing separate deals. The payment of overriding commissions is still going on. Although that may not be strictly illegal in the form of subsidy payments for advertising, it is something that is not helping the industry overall. It is tending to put the power into the hands of the consolidators and major travel agencies to the detriment of more than 900 smaller travel agents who are employing big staff around Australia. If the air navigation regulations are going to be worth the paper they are written on, we have to do some revising to make sure that we do have the necessary legislation and facilities to start clamping down on the international airfare rackets that are available at the moment. As I said on Thursday morning, there are some good deals available at the moment.
It is quite openly touted in Melbourne at the moment that if one pays for a full first class ticket, eight weeks after returning to Australia one gets a refund of the difference between the economy fare and the first class fare. In flagrant violation of the present APEX fares one can buy very cheap air fares between Australia and Europe at the moment. We have to decide whether we want to give the consumer a free market at the possible expense of Qantas or whether we going to settle the whole industry down. It is a difficult industry, a big industry. I feel very sorry indeed for the small travel agent in Australia trying to make a living in the coming years.
- [Hon. Ian Robinson]- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to raise a couple of matters tonight which were raised in the Estimates Committee in respect of natural gas policy in Australia, and of the North West Shelf in particular, to which the Government gave, to say the least, very inadequate replies. If there is one thread running through the Opposition’s policy on energy in this country it is the belief that Australia could maximise its energy opportunities through natural gas. Australia is a gas prone continent. The range of temperatures and pressures which produce hydrocarbons, particularly oil and gas, are much wider for gas than they are for oil. Given the geology of the continent, the likelihood is that there is a lot of undiscovered gas in Australia. If we maximise our opportunities in respect of natural gas, we could find that all of our major industrial cities have what is, by world standards, a luxurious supply of energy for at least 25 to 30 years on a moving index basis.
When one looks at Australia’s natural gas position, one finds that New South Wales has a contract for 30 years to the year 2005 for gas supplies from the Cooper Basin in South Australia. Melbourne, and Victoria, have a gas supply for about the same time with an option over further reserves. There is a problem with South Australia with the likelihood that it will have a two trillion cubic feet gas shortfall between 1984 and 2005. This shortfall could be made up from the Cooper Basin or alternatively with a pipeline from Gippsland from the Bass Basin. The position with Queensland, and Brisbane in particular, which has a low gas demand because it has a fairly temperate climate and a small industrial base, is that it will have a cumulative gas demand between now and the turn of the century of about 0.5 to 0.63 trillion cubic feet of gas. It is possible that some exploration in the Surat Basin may cover that shortfall or alternatively authorities in Brisbane could gasefy liquefied petroleum gas or take gas from coal.
The picture for south eastern Australia looks fairly good. If we can find two trillion cubic feet for Adelaide, all of the major east coast demand centres of Australia will have a 25 to 30 year gas supply. Hence any talk about building a transcontinental pipeline at this stage to link Western Australia to the south eastern portion of the continent, where the area of gas demand is, would be highly premature and at this stage it would be a commercially silly decision. The only other area of mainland Australia which needs to be attended to- leaving Tasmania out at this stage- is the gas demand in Perth and in Western Australia. It is on this topic that I should like to spend the next few minutes. Both sides of the Parliament are committed to the concept of exports of gas from the North West Shelf of Australia, that is, from the North Rankin Trend and the Carnarvon Basin.
The Australian Labor Party at its national conference held in Perth in 1977, decided as its policy that it would allow gas exports from the North West Shelf, enough to justify development expenditure, but not more than should be allowed in the national interest. That national interest of course is Australia’s cumulative domestic demand. Because the south-eastern part of the continent is pretty well fixed for gas- if we adopt the right conservation and exploration policies- we really need to attend to the Western Australian demand position. We find that there has been a lot of talk there about how much gas there is in Western Australia. In fact there has been quite a lot of optimistic, baseless and senseless discussion about the level of gas reserves there. The levels of gas reserves there are quite healthy; nevertheless they are not there so that one can adopt senseless policies about their development. I shall read from the Australian Natural Gas Utilisation and Transportation Study which was prepared for the Pipeline Authority in October 1976 by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and the Societe Francaise d ‘Etudes et de Realisations d’Equipements Gaziers, the French SOFREGAZ group. They looked at two basic case studies for exports in the North West Shelf area. On page 19 of that report it is stated:
Two levels of LNG -
That is, liquefied natural gas- export were considered to examine the first effect. A highlevel contract of 6.3 trillion cubic feet of exports over 20 years requiring 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas feed to the LNG plant, was studied in Case 2. 1 . 2. This quantity plus the best estimate of consumption of gas in Western Australia (4 trillion cubic feet) make a total consumption which is roughly equivalent -
I emphasise the words ‘roughly equivalent’- to the best estimate of recoverable reserves on the North West Shelf.
In other words, they are saying that 6.7 trillion cubic feet of exports plus 4 trillion cubic feet of domestic reserves cuts the whole North West Shelf reserve right out. That is still the position. The first contract of gas for Western Australia would be for a maximum of 370 cubic feet a day over 20 years. That comes to a cumulative 2.7 trillion cubic feet over that period. The export level which the Government has approved for the North West Shelf and with which the Opposition concurs is 53 per cent of the North Rankin Trend, which equals 6.7 trillion cubic feet in the ground. That 2.7 trillion cubic feet already committed for Western Australia plus the 6.7 trillion cubic feet in the ground comes to 9.4 trillion cubic feet. That 9.4 trillion cubic feet is the very limit of the proven category of reserves on the North West Shelf. Any assessment above that such as assessment by Woodside-Burmah Oil NL of 13.56 trillion cubic feet or the Bureau of Mineral Resources’ assessment of 11.2 trillion cubic feet, or even the Mines Handbook assessment of 17.2 trillion cubic feet- is really in the probable category, not the proven category. That is the case once we get above about 9.4 trillion cubic feet.
If we want to go along with a very rapid development of the export potential- we are not talking about the totality of reserves committed to export, but the rate of production- we find that Western Australia’s domestic gas supplies could be in jeopardy. They could be in jeopardy on the basis that Western Australia will need a gas supply in excess of 250 million cubic feet a day about five years after the commencement of the project. If the project starts in 1984, by about 1990 Western Australian demand could be running greatly ahead of the levels of gas committed to it, yet there would be no opportunity to get an additional gas supply if the North West Shelf starts to operate with exports of 6.5 million tonnes of gas a year.
In Perth about a month ago I floated the idea that the consortium ought to start up the project on a two-trains basis of exporting about 4.4 million tonnes and move to 6.5 million tonnes after it was in a position to be able to offer the State of Western Australia another 2 trillion cubic feet of gas, or about another 250 million cubic feet a day over 20 years. If we were to find ourselves in that happy position we could move with absolute assurance to exporting 6.5 million tonnes and see the project extend to the export of 6.7 trillion cubic feet in the ground, with which both the major parties agree. The issue tends to get down to the fact that maybe we are a bit hasty in assuming that Western Australia is sitting upon a huge reserve of gas when that, in fact, is not the case. In 1975 the reserves in the North West Shelf were about the same as they are now. There has been no real addition. The fields around North Rankin, Goodwyn, Angel, Egret and these others need to be explored.
The Opposition stands firmly in support of the North West Shelf export project, but it demands of the Government that it guarantee to the State of Western Australia an adequate supply of gas through to the year 2000 or 2005, to put it in the same position as the other eastern coast cities of
Australia, so that its industrial base will have an adequate gas supply and give it a level of energy independence which will be almost unparalleled in the world. That cannot be jeopardised by any plans by any corporate group to export a level of gas at an earlier stage rather than a later stage, which would happen to put that independence in jeopardy.
– I will repeat briefly the comment I made last night in relation to Estimates Committee A when I praised the initiative and determination of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), inasmuch as it led to this new system for the consideration of the Estimates. I do not know whether any Opposition spokesmen would be prepared to allow me to have incorporated in Hansard a short extract from the Estimates committee proceedings.
- (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Is the honourable member seeking leave?
– I am, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The extract read as follows-
- Mr Purnell-Webb probably would not be surprised at my interest in the subject because when he was at the Government members rural committee on 6 March I raised the question of the martin fishing. But the increase in the estimates on page 15S of the explanatory notes is up to $3m in the revenue from fishing licences and charges. Considering that the Japanese will be paying us about $1.4m, would you give details of where the other money is coming from? Secondly, do the agreements from where this money might be coming from affect the marlin grounds in North Queensland? Thirdly, is some other country involved which has paid a pittance for entry to our marlin grounds and if so is it too late for us to do anything about that? Fourthly, when was it decided that it was too late to do anything about the North Queensland marlin fishing agreement with the Japanese, and over what period did these negotiations take place? Finally if the Japanese were to agree to a suggestion in the Brisbane Telegraph the other day alleging that you said you were considering asking the Japanese whether they would voluntarily withdraw from about the 13th to the 18th parallel and 200 miles out, would it cause much trouble to the Government income if, as a gesture of goodwill and of our bona fides, we were to offer to return to the Japanese the $ 1.4m?
– The last part of the question, of course, is a matter for the Government to consider in the transfer of funds. But generally I understand the negotiations on the 200-mile fishing zone and the agreement with the Japanese have been taking place over about IS months. The agreement has been developed in consultation with the States through the Australian Fishing Industry Council and through the two zones- the northern zone and the southern zone. So there has been consultation right through the period in the drawing up of the agreement. You asked when the Government decided it was too late to change the agreement.
– No, I did not ask when it was too late for the Government but when it was too late to do anything about it in terms of honouring commitments and behind the scenes agreements.
– I first became aware of this problem when representations were made to the Government in the weeks preceding the signing of the agreement. After I became Minister for Primary Industry representations came through to us asking for a postponement of the agreement. The question was raised with the Government, consultation was held in Japan and we were notified that it was not thought possible to change the agreement at that point. Only days before the signing of the agreement final notification came through that we were unable to secure any change.
– You would be surprised then that you had correspondence for weeks and weeks before that opposing what was being agreed upon?
– I am not surprised at all. That would have been part of the total consideration before agreement was reached on the matter. All of those considerations would have been part of the consultation process that led up to the final agreement. You asked a question relating to voluntary withdrawal. This is a question I agreed to take back to the Government, at the request of the Game Fishermen’s Association, to see whether it is possible for the Japanese to voluntarily withdraw from a specific area north of Lizard Island. This is said to be a breeding ground for marlin. That question has not yet been decided by the Government.
-There is a return of $ 1.4m involved there.
– The question of the $ 1 .4m return, as a financial measure, would have to be considered by the Government also. I cannot give you an answer on that.
-My only other question was on the estimates. Where does all the rest of the money come from?
Mr Purnell Webb I do not have the exact figures with me but I can give you a very close breakdown of the $3m. There is an estimated $1.4m from the Japanese agreement and about $0.8m from the Koreans. That is estimated on what they have asked for and what we might be prepared to allow them to take from two or three fisheries, especially in the north-west.
– The north-west or the marlin ground?
Mr Purnell Webb I will come to that in a moment. The answer is no, but I will explain why that is so. There is also about $0.8m from licenses to Taiwanese fishermen. There are some other smaller amounts from licence fees for feasibility fishing ventures and things like that. In round figures $3m is our estimate. That is how the S3m is made up. With respect to the marlin grounds, there are no negotiations taking place with other countries which will result in fishing in that area of the Coral Sea. The Koreans have asked for six vessels to be permitted to longline for tuna but their principal aim is the Southern bluefin tuna. Those are caught about 3 1 degrees south of the Coral Sea.
– I am intrigued by the amount of publicity about the marlin. I thought access to the Japanese market would have been an important issue, too. Can you tell me what increased access we have, if any?
Mr Purnell Webb Press statements have indicated a belief that we were seeking and demanding from the Japanese unlimited access to their market for our fish and fish products. I think it would be unrealistic to expect any country to allow any other country’s products unlimited access to its markets. The Japanese system of control of foreign fish products on its market is based on either tariffs or imported quotas. Apart from special arrangements they have with Koreans because of their special relationship with Korea and this area, their quotas are global ones. Our aim was access to the whole of that quota if we could meet their quality standards and if our commercial people could be competitive on their markets. We have received assurances from the Japanese that that would be the position. We have received assurances from the Japanese that if at any time we could produce a case to show that Australian fish products were being debarred from the Japanese market because of tariffs or non-tariff barriers they would discuss the situation in an endeavour to rectify it.
– It needs to be remembered that the basis of determining the six points put into this agreement, in addition to the $ 1.4m, was consultation with the States and the Australian Fishing Industry Council. There are no areas where there is an Australian product that we are unable to sell on the Japanese market. What we are talking about is a projected demand for a product which we are yet to catch. What we are seeking to do in this arrangement is to try to ensure that in the negotiations we secure a position at least equal to that of every other exporter with a right to negotiate if some irritant should arise and a particular Australian product is excluded. That has been included within the negotiation and I believe we have protected totally the Australian fishing industries commercial interests at a time when they are still trying to see what product there is and what sort of market we will need.
Replying to Mr Cameron’s question there would be no point in returning the $1.4m. The $1.4m is not related to Japanese longline fishing in the marlin area. That is the total compensation based on an estimate of what we think the catch might be worth in a new regime.
Our aim, not simply in the marlin grounds but in all fishing grounds, was to secure to the best advantage some return from any continuation of Japanese fishery after we had declared the 200-mile fishing zone. As you have intimated, we have been fully aware of the marlin fishermen’s concern. We have had long discussions at State level and at official level with various interested parties. Location of the marlin breeding grounds is a matter of some controversy, as is the effect of the Japanese longliners on those breeding grounds and on the catch. I believe we have an arrangement which protects marlin breeding grounds to a greater degree than is the case now. I am quite sure that pushing them out of the grounds should improve the catch but it seems that marlin are a pelagic fish, found throughout the Pacific and as with tuna, which is a matter of some politics with the United States, it is unlikely that anything we do in the narrow sense around Australia’s 200-mile zone will significantly improve the marlin catch.
Commercial fishermen do not accept that argument. That is where the problem lies. Nevertheless, the argument I am putting over does seem to be based on the only reasonable scientific evidence we have. If we were to return the $ 1.4m to the Japanese we would be in the ridiculous position of charging others to come in whilst allowing the Japanese to get the resource for nothing. This would not help in developing a policy of giving some responsibility to the Japanese to report other fishing boats in the area. Nor would it help towards establishing a worthwhile long-term arrangement among ourselves the Japanese and other nations about how best to utilise those fishing resources. It is a one-year agreement and I have no doubt that by the end of that year both sides will see the necessity of a number of changes.
-This is done in the belief that the Hansard record of this House is a much more widely read and much more popular publication than the Estimates committees publication. That extract refers to the questions I raised with the recently appointed Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) and the head of the Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industry. I know that one does not normally name public servants but I do so more as a tribute to the person concerned. I refer to Mr Purnell- Webb who acted on behalf of the Government in negotiating an agreement with the Japanese over the fishing grounds off north Queensland. The reason I have obtained leave to have this extract incorporated in Hansard- and the reason I take the opportunity to raise the matter again in relation to the Estimates for the Department of Primary Industry- is that I believe that there is some vital information there which will be of great use to members of the Parliament and public alike. I am pleased to observe from the comments in that report that it is unlikely that we will ever have a repeat situation of the agreement which was reached this year.
One thing that pleases me is the undertaking by the Minister for Primary Industry, following discussions with the representatives of the game fishermen, that he would approach the Federal Government and ask: ‘Can we go to the Japanese and ask them to voluntarily withdraw?’. I think the area he defined is the area between 13 degrees south and 18 degrees south and out to 200 miles off the reef. I suggested in the Estimates Committee that the Government might be prepared to hand back to the Japanese that rather lousy sum of $1.4m which we are being paid by the Japanese for their right to fish in our waters.
The right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the former Minister for Primary Industry, acted in a most able capacity as an almost supplementary Minister. I was most impressed by his deep knowledge of his former portfolio. He provided information which we had not heard before and which we found to be of great interest, particularly in relation to the question of when it became too late to secure those fishing grounds from the long-line fishermen. I hope the Japanese Government is sufficiently sensitive to recognise the feeling in Queensland on this subject. Feeling has quietened down and is dormant because the signing is over but it is still there. It may well be that if the Government were to try to draw the same lines for next year there would be such an uproar in Queensland that the Japanese could well be banished from the 200-mile limit off the coast of that great northern State. That is the thing they must constantly bear in mind. It is in the Japanese’s own interest, if they want to do a little bit of fishing, to be most reasonable and accommodate the desires of people who have more than a passing interest in the preservation of that marlin fishing ground.
I was going to move off fishing but I wish to say that I have been very fortunate in that I have fished off the Bay of Islands of Zane Grey fame. He used to fish there for marlin. Sadly these fish have just about been fished out. I have also had the privilege of fishing off Acapulco, an equally famous fishing ground. The most I could ever pick up- not that I have been there often because I am mostly working in my electorate- was the odd yellow fin tuna, a great fighting fish but nothing like the marlin. Australia, particularly Queensland, is fortunate in having waters off Cairns which have been chosen by the marlin fish as a part of the world where they like to swim.
Whilst on primary industry I would like to make some observations about the fluctuations in prices that beef producers receive for their produce. I raised the question some months ago with the former Minister for Primary Industry, the right honourable member for New England. I suggested to him that perhaps the Government should be looking at a meat price stabilisation scheme so that my producers and farmersindeed, the beef producers throughout Australia- would not be subjected to the crippling downturns that so often occur. Producers seem to spend years at the bottom of the trough when beef prices are so low that they think they can hardly survive. Then along come the good times and up goes the price of beef in accordance with world demands. The sun shines for a little while but nobody knows when it will set and they will return to those uncertain days. Mr Deputy Speaker, you are a man from the land and I can see that you understand better than some others in this chamber the remarks I am making. I would point out that the prices of other rural commodities are stabilised. Whilst I concede that the new system of grading beef might have some virtue, the Government should still be giving serious attention to a stabilisation system for beef prices.
– Those cows that run around Eagle Farm are horses.
– I can assure the honourable member that I even managed to spend some time at an agricultural college in preparation for my exit from Griffith to the rural seat of Fadden. I am probably better equipped in terms of an academic background than he might be with his steam train experience. I do commend him for his ability to come to grips with many wide-ranging subjects. Anyhow, I am not going to be distracted by the former Speaker of this House. I will conclude with a plea to the Government that whilst it is working along the road to introducing a meat grading system it have a serious look at implementing some system which will ensure that the rises and falls which currently affect beef prices are removed. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) turned and nodded his head in agreement when I asked my question because unfortunately the rising prices of some rural products play havoc with the consumer price index. Just as oil prices today have an affect, beef prices have also had an effect. The thing we want most of all in this country is for the farmer to get a fair return and for the consumer to buy the product at a fair price. It is ridiculous that at times people shoot cattle because nobody will buy them and then the next month beef is so scarce a commodity that a bar of gold would not purchase a beast.
- [Hon. Ian Robinson]- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Like the motorists of Australia, I and the Opposition continue to be concerned with the passing on of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ price increases to the price of Australian crude oil. It seems that the Government is determined to continue this folly. During the Estimates Committee B hearing relating to the Department of National Development I said to the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman):
The nations of Kuwait, Libya and Iran are foreshadowing rises of 10 per cent in the price of crude oil.
– Have you got any alternative?
– Just listen to this. Later on I said to the Minister:
Eventually Saudi Arabia and the other more moderate countries will agree to follow them up.
Are you determined to continue with this policy, regardless of how high OPEC price increases are in the future?
The Minister said:
The policy of the Government is to follow the OPEC market price, and I see no reason to change from that policy.
– What would you do?
-He went on to say:
You asked also about the CPI effect. In fact l.S per cent was added to the last CPI by a rise of SO per cent.
A SO per cent increase means only a 1.5 per cent increase.
The Minister said:
It rose from $13.66 to $18.66, which is a 50 per cent rise and added 1.5 percent to the CPI.
I relate that little anecdote so that honourable members will understand why the policy is so confused. It is because the Minister is most certainly confused. The price of crude oil in Australia rose by $5, to $18.66 from $13.66, on 1 July this year. That is a rise of 36 per cent, not 50 per cent as the Minister said the other night. It resulted in a 4c plus per litre increase in the price of petrol. I want the people of Australia to understand that. That resulted in at least a 1.5 per cent increase in the consumer price index. From 1 January this year oil has gone up on the Australian scene from $ 12.60 to $ 1 8.66. That is a rise of 48 per cent as a result of this Government’s stupid policy. It has resulted in a 2XA per cent increase in the consumer price index this calendar year. If honourable members want to go back 12 months to last September, it has resulted in a 2.8 per cent or 3 per cent increase in the CPI. Now, as the CPI has risen by 9.2 per cent in the last year, this means that over one-third of that- get that through your stupid head- has been as a result of rises in the price of petrol.
– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Order!
-The Government boasts that this policy has extended the reserves.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I distinctly object to having my head called stupid.
-Is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro rising to a point of order?
– Yes. I would very much like the honourable member for Cunningham to withdraw that remark because I was not making those interjections facetiously. I was trying to point out the distinctly sensible policies of the Federal Government. That has nothing to do with stupidity.
-There is no point of order.
– I will get on with my speech. I have a lot to say and he has nothing to say. The Government boasts that its policy has extended reserves of Australian crude oil. Before this policy Australia’s crude oil reserves were approximately 2 billion barrels. It is true that now they are estimated at 2.4 billion barrels. That is a 400,000 barrel increase. That amount mainly comes from the fields in Bass Strait, Cobia, Kingfish and Fortescue. So that argument of the Government is entirely spurious. I would now like to examine briefly the result of the Government’s policy on oil exploration. We see that it has been very meagre indeed. Under the McMahon Government in 1 97 1 there were 77 oil wells drilled in Australia. Under the Fraser Government in 1978- one year after this policy was implemented in 1977- there were only 52 wells drilled. I have a table which I seek to have incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the House. This year the position will not be much better with an estimated total of 83 to 140 oil wells being drilled. However, recent reports suggest that the actual exploration activity is likely to fall far short of these optimistic predictions. For example, only 23 exploration wells were drilled during the first half of this year compared with 22 in the same period in 1978. To put these figures into perspective, it should be remembered that over the four year period following the 1977 Budget as a result of these policies, Esso-BHP will receive a sum conservatively estimated at $ 1,450m as windfall revenue and West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd will receive likewise over $180m of windfall profits. I note that these amounts are in addition to annual returns to producers of around $300m to EssoBHP and $30m to Wapet.
I also draw the attention of the House to the extremely high level of revenue raised. That is the real reason why this Government has imposed the import parity pricing policy. In 1978-79, the Government received $ 1,190m from the oil excise duty and this financial year it expects to receive over $2 billion. It is obvious that when the Government renounced the value added tax some 12 months ago, this was the alternative tax imposed. It has been a more selective tax than a broad based consumer tax could possibly be. It has been directed at motorists and it has raised this tremendously high level of revenue. All major western industrial nations, except the United Kingdom, will continue to be importers of oil. It is the nations of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries that must make up this balance. Consequently, they will wield the accompanying economic power. They can be expected to minimise production to conserve their main export earner and at the same time maximise their prices. The only limits on this price will continue to be the capacity of the consumer nations to pay and the cost and availability of alternative liquid fuels to crude oil. What we cannot and must not do is abrogate power over Australian petrol and fuel prices to OPEC. OPEC will continue to act in its own best interests and not in our best interests. We must break that nexus now.
In the short time remaining to me I want to deal with another foolish reply from the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) to questioning the other night. The shadow minister for urban affairs, Mr Uren, asked:
Since you say you would give certain advice, does your Government now support the concept of atomic power stations in this country?
The Minister replied:
The position on atomic energy stations in Australia will depend on State decisions. It is up to the States to decide whether or not they will build reactors.
That is an amazing answer. It does not consider the problems of waste disposal. It does not consider the problem of finally dismantling nuclear power stations. Nowhere in the world has a satisfactory result been found to this question. That leads me to the particular relevance that this question about which the shadow Minister for minerals and energy was speaking a moment ago has to Western Australia. I refer to the proposed North West Shelf development. We, as an Opposition, support exports of gas from that field. But we do not support exports to the proposed level of 75 per cent of the North Rankin Trend. I will give honourable members the figures on this matter. The total recoverable reserves are 245,000 million cubic metres. The daily production will be 41 million cubic metres. The exports are reckoned to be 31 million cubic metres a day and 10 million cubic metres only is to be directed to Western Australia. Firstly, if these figures are to be maintained for 20 years the reserves for North Rankin would need to be considerably more than 245,000 million cubic metres. Secondly, although the consortium consistently states in its reports that it proposes to export 53 per cent of the gas yield, in fact it will be exporting somewhere between 70 per cent and 75 per cent, depending upon the precise final consortium breakdown between domestic use and export requirements. There should be a reexamination of the export level to 4.4 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year, instead of the estimated 6.5 million tonnes. This would reduce exports by one-third and guarantee Western Australia an energy supply in the future.
- [Hon. Ian Robinson]- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It gives me a great deal of pleasure to speak in this debate and particularly to make a personal assessment of the success or otherwise of the House of Representatives Estimates committees. I was a member of Estimates Committee B. I must say that when it was first formulated and the lists were made up, I was a little reluctant to participate because I felt there were many other important things to be done. However, becoming involved with the Committee was a great experience. As the proceedings developed and we went on to deal with department after department I became quite enthralled. I agree with other speakers in the debate that there could be some improvements in the committees. I felt that the main criticism was the amount of time spent on some departments. Just one hour was allotted to deal with a major department. This seemed to me far too short a time. Possibly when we look at the Estimates committees in 1980 we might be able to allocate more time to consider the estimates of the departments on which we ran short of time.
One of the departments that Estimates Committee B had before it was the Department of Science and the Environment. I have been particularly interested in the biological control of weeds. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been doing great work in the biological control of weeds. We witnessed the program dealing with skeleton weed and the recently proved program on Paterson ‘s curse. I have been plugging for some biological program to be implemented on Bathurst burr. I have been making private investigations within CSIRO. I have been getting answers but they were not the sorts of answers I got at the Committee meeting. That is what I thought was so good. The experts from CSIRO were sitting there with the Minister and we got the answers straight from the shoulder.
– What about Paterson ‘s curse?
-The program on Paterson ‘s curse is a success; we are on the way. We have to win the battle with Bathurst burr.
– Hear, hear!
-The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) who is at the table has had experience with Bathurst burr. The thing that really worried me about the answers we received was that only 12 permanent staff were involved in this biological control program. When the farmer is dealing with these very serious weeds today he has to use chemical control. Chemicals, like petrol and diesel fuel, are becoming very expensive. Their price is going beyond the budget of the normal farmer. In addition, the environmentalist is totally opposed to the use of chemicals for the control of weeds or insects. I feel that the Government should be looking seriously at providing funding for a great many more professional men in this field so that we can use biological control instead of relying on chemical control.
The second matter that 1 was very interested in concerning the Department of Primary Industry was the threatening locust plague. Of course, we have had good warning as to the potential extent of the locust plague. The egg beds throughout the Riverina and western New South Wales are very extensive, and they have been well plotted. We have to make sure that we win the battle against the prospective locust plague.
Today, as we all know, the farmer is starting on the road to recovery. Prices are good and, in the main, seasons are very good. But western New South Wales, the Riverina and, in particular, north and north-eastern Victoria, will be under serious threat if these egg beds hatch out, and all the experts are sure that they will. It is at this stage that the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government through the Australian Plague Locust Commission, which operates in conjunction with the States, must hit and hit hard. When I asked a question on this subject of the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, I was pleased to hear him say:
Additional sums can and will be made available through additional estimates if and when required. If this plague locust problem turns out to be more significant than in other years, appropriate funds will be made available by the Government.
When I heard those words, I though that we had a very good chance of controlling this plague. It will be a great test because potentially it is a big plague. Everybody is poised to go. I am assured that we have 100 tonnes of insecticides on hand and that this will be enough for the initial campaign. I was assured at Estimates Committee B that if the threat continues through into the autumn, further supplies of insecticide will be available. I understand that the Australian Plague Locust Commission is about to order more insecticide to make sure that we cover that.
– What type of insecticide?
– I did not ask that question, but if the honourable member for Isaacs asks that question of the Minister no doubt he will get an answer. I am not worried about what type of insecticide it is as long as it kills locusts.
The third item I wish to mention is the program for carcass classification. I was interested to see in the estimates that $1,195,000 has been set aside for the carcass classification investigatory program for the forthcoming year. There have been problems with developing the program. The use of mechanical equipment to automate carcass classification has been tantamount to complete failure at this stage. I have no doubt that some equipment will be developed. Work is going on to try to find equipment that will do this. The bulk of this money will be aimed at developing the visual classification program.
Meat producers throughout Australia are awaiting the implementation of classification. One can but wish well the people who are doing this work. The money seems to be adequate. I hope that we will be able to perfect the system and get it implemented. At the moment meat is in great demand. The introduction of classification at this stage would be advantageous because the costs can be covered while the incomes are good and before there is any drop in meat prices.
– I want to express my concern at the farce brought about by the establishment of Estimates committee. It must be understood clearly that Estimates Committe B considered the estimates of 17 departments and we will now have a little over three hours within which to discuss those departments. It is true that at another place we were able to question Ministers of the respective departments whose estimates were before Estimates Committee B and that in some cases we were able, through them, to question the departmental officers but even then the replies we received were very inadequate. I must say that I will certainly be agitating from this side of the Parliament that we should not have a bar of this system.
For the 2 1 years I have been a member of this Parliament the practice has been for honourable members to be given the opportunity to participate in a debate in this chamber on the Estimates. It has been a debate which has enabled honourable members to consider the Estimates in a democratic way. Each honourable member could rise twice and speak for at least 10 minutes. In other words a Minister may reply to him and he may get an opportunity to reply to the Minister. I am told that this Parliament is to rise on 15 November. The debate on the Estimates has been restricted. We are to have a total debate of about six hours. It is inadequate; it is undemocratic and it is giving greater power to the Executive. During the years that I have been here the rights and privileges of the rank and file members of this Parliament have been eroded bit by bit, and greater power has gone to the Executive. I object to the overall procedure of Estimate committee consideration of the Estimates.
I was very concerned about the inadequate answers given at Estimates Commitee B by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) and his officers on the estimates for the Department of Housing and Construction. I shall concentrate my remarks on those estimates. I am reflecting not on the competence of the officers of that Department but on the priorities of this Government. Information could not be provided on a number of important matters. Clearly, there is a lack of scientific research into the housing needs of the different groups of people within our society. There is a lack of adequate research into housing policy. Hardly any information is available concerning the operation of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement in the various States. No targets have been identified for housing a certain percentage of the people in our society who are in need of housing.
As the Opposition’s spokesman, I have raised the subject of housing in this Parliament on many occasions. I have provided detailed statistics on the growing housing crisis in Australia, especially for low and lower-middle income earners. I have talked about over 70,000 people waiting on the housing commission lists. Over 100,000 people are homeless and sleep at night in public toilets, in cars, or wherever they can get accommodation. Many people sleep in the streets. In a society such as ours that should not be permitted. There are 250,000 people living permanently in caravan parks. I have talked about those people who have been caught up in rising rent prices. Some of them are paying a half of their weekly income on rent.
I have said that it is almost impossible for a single income family to purchase a home in Sydney or Melbourne. Very few houses are available for less than $35,000 to $40,000 in those two cities and that is where the majority of the Australian people live. The home savings grants scheme is becoming more and more irrelevant as a scheme for helping people to get a foot on the first rung of the home ownership ladder. It is our responsibility to try to help people to get a foot on the first rung of that ladder. Single income families earning up to 135 per cent of average weekly earnings- something like $270 to $280 a week- are not in a position to get a loan and repay any commitment because of the spiralling cost of housing. In July 1979, for instance, the median price of an established home in Sydney was $62,200. In Melbourne it was $47,500. It is difficult to acquire a block of land costing less than $ 14,000 in either of those cities. To build an average 10-square house costs about $24,000. One can see that it costs something like $36,000 to $38,000 to build a new house. That is the cheapest amount for which one can build, and most of those houses are so far away from public transport and from the centre of the city that a great deal of the owner’s wages every year go on transport costs.
Housing prices in Sydney and Melbourne have increased by an average of 20 per cent over the last year. In the Sydney suburbs they are increasing at the rate of 10 per cent every three months.
The price index of materials used in house building rose by 5.2 per cent in the year to September 1978 but by 11.4 per cent in the year to September 1977. One can see that building costs are spiralling. We have to be clear about what is going on, and I want to incorporate in Hansard a table that was forwarded to me by the St George Building Society Ltd which, for the second successive year, has had the highest loan approvals among building societies in Australia. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table for the years 1975 to 1979 inclusive setting out the costs of homes, and the occupations of the breadwinners, whether unskilled, skilled, clerical, semiprofessional, professional/executive, and so on.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. Let me give some details of the costs in 1 975 and 1979.1 have taken 1975 because that was the last year of the Labor Administration. In 1979 some 6,044 loans were approved by the St George Building Society, amounting to $180m in round figures. In 1975, nine per cent of loans approved were for unskilled people and in 1979 the figure is 6.49 per cent. For skilled workers, in 1 975 the figure was 36.46 per cent and this year it is 31.85 per cent. If one looks at the semi-professional group, in 1975 the figure was 31.39 per cent and this year it is 51.37 per cent. In the concluding minutes left to me, let me deal with levels of income. In 1975, 22.91 per cent of loans were to people earning less than $150 a week. This year the figure is 1.82 per cent- less than two per cent. For incomes of between $151 and $200, the figure was 37 per cent in 1975 and 22 per cent this year. For incomes over $200, the figure in 1975 was 39.45 per cent, but this year it is over 76 per cent.
The truth is that, under this Government, housing loans are being given to the wealthy and the needy are going without. That has been the policy of this Government across the board. It is looking after the wealthy, the middle to upper middle income people, while those on lower middle and low incomes are in dire straits. There is a real crisis situation, and we have to make housing available for those people. The figures clearly reveal the inequality in our society, particularly in relation to housing. I demand a better deal for the people in this country who need housing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This House has been given the pleasure of the fourth re-run of the lament of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) on housing, with one exception, and that was a group of extraordinary figures included at the end of his speech. I must say that they need to be banged on the head immediately with extreme vigour. Any honourable member who comes into this House and states income levels of four years ago, relates them to the same income levels of the present day, and then pretends that they are the same amounts of income that workers are getting, is talking through his hat. He is setting out to mislead this House. The fact is that the 1 975 income of $ 1 50 is now $200, and that is why there is such a dramatic change in the phoney figures that the Minister has presented to this House.
– Not the Minister.
– I am sorry, the former Minister. The former Minister ought to know better than to seek to mislead this House with such nonsense figures. He said that in 1975 22.9 per cent of loans from the St George Building Society were to people on incomes of $150. Then he said: What a disgrace! At that level, now only about one per cent are getting such loans’. Naturally that is so, because inflation and cost of living rises granted by courts have taken that $150 up to $200. About 22 per cent of loans- roughly the same proportion as the honourable member for Reid said existed in 1975- are still being made to exactly the same income earners. For the honourable member for Reid to pretend to the contrary is a disgrace to him and an insult to this House.
Let me deal with a couple of much more important matters than the nonsense raised by the honourable member. Let me deal with some matters relating to the Department of the
Treasury raised in the Estimates Committee. May I say in passing that it is extraordinary for members such as the honourable member for Reid to pretend that less time has been given this year to the consideration of Estimates than was given in the past, and that the rights of members have been eroded. In fact, the amount of time available for discussion of the Estimates by members of this House this year is more than double the time that was made available in the past. Certainly, it is more than double the time available when the honourable member for Reid was a misguided member of a misguided Government. Never has there been such scrutiny of the Estimates in this House as has taken place this year under this Government which, unlike its predecessor in the 1973 to 1975 period, has nothing to hide in its Estimates. The previous Government was quite interesting in the manner in which it treated its requests for finance. Let me deal with a resolution that was passed by the Estimates Committee that considered the Treasury. The resolution which I had the honour to move, stated.
That recognising the severe damage which blatant tax avoidance schemes and tax evasion cause through the loss of revenue and the reduction in the equity of the tax system, the committee endorses the Government’s moves to increase the financial and personnel resources of the Taxation Office so as to facilitate more effective prevention of blatant tax avoidance schemes and evasion.
That resolution was moved in the Committee because, I might suggest, the Opposition, which appears to be extraordinarily unrepresented in the House at present -
– Not even here; not even interested.
– Exactly. As my honourable friend said, the Opposition is not even interested in the Estimates. Having just lamented and complained that they were not given a fair go to discuss the Estimates, not one member of the Opposition is here in the chamber to discuss them.
– It is a national scandal.
– It is, as my colleague says, a national scandal. I hope that people listening are aware of the fact that it is unprecedented in my time in this House that not one member of the Labor Party is in the chamber to discuss these enormous Estimates about which they have been so critical and about which such phoney crocodile tears have just been shed because they were not given a fair chance, a fair go to discuss them. The reason that motion was moved in the Committee of which I was a member is that the Labor Party had endeavoured to make political capital -
– The big captain of the ship! You are only a recruit.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, is that supposed to be an interjection? Is the honourable member on his feet for any particular reason? Does he have the call, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-I call the honourable member for Macarthur.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am glad I have the call because for a moment I wondered.
-I suggest that the honourable member for Macarthur continue the debate.
-Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I hope only one of us will be continuing at a time. I am glad that this motion was moved because in this Committee the Labor Party was endeavouring to make political capital, of all things, out of the Government’s record in dealing with tax avoidance. For heaven’s sake, this Government has had a sensible and practical approach to this very serious problem which was generated unfortunately when taxes suddenly rushed forward during the period 1973-75. There had never been such a major attack on the revenue as took place when taxes unfortunately rose so fast. I am indebted to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) who endeavoured in the Committee hearing to move a motion that was critical of this present Government, which is the first this decade to move with vigour against the assaults on the revenue that regrettably have taken place following the huge hike in tax rates. This Government has introduced many measures. It can certainly be argued that some of them have been too severe in their incidence.
The point I would like to make is that the honourable member for Gellibrand is a man of honesty and integrity. He sought to move this motion because he felt that the criticism was valid. He is not, I believe, a man who was responsible for the indolence of the previous Government, the Whitlam Labor Government, which introduced no anti-tax evasion measures whatsoever. But I think it is also important to recognise that in the speech today by the honourable member for Gellibrand, which I hope is required reading for every member of the House, he outlined why a Labor government would return to the sorts of economic policies which caused such chaos only five or six years ago. He saw nothing wrong with big deficits. He was all in favour of them. He saw nothing wrong with flooding the market with government securities in order to push up interest rates. The speech of the honourable member was in fact a disaster. It underlines the disastrous policies that once again would be adopted if the Labor Party came to power. I am reminded that the honourable member for Gellibrand as the economic spokesman for the Labor Party in this House is the person who only last year said that one of the major problems facing a prospective Labor government would be to restore the size of the public sector and to increase taxes necessary to pay for it. Clearly this policy of higher deficits still remains, of higher interests, of flooding the market with government securities and of endeavouring to convince the public that they should pay higher taxes to pay for an even faster expanding public sector, which means the Government spending taxpayers ‘ money. It is extraordinary to think that this is still the policy of the Labor Party and that it was again stated in this place today. One would think that there are no lessons to be learned from the events of the 1973-75 period.
May I state how fortunate we are that, at a time when we are facing the same sorts of problems that did emerge internationally in 1974 and which caused such terrible havoc in Australia because of the policies being employed here at home, those policies which are being pushed this instant by the Labor Party are not in fact being pushed by this Government. This Government is employing policies which are very much contrary to those which caused us so much trouble five or six years ago. Yet exactly the same sort of international crises are now happening. Our inflation rate is 3 per cent less than it is in the leading nations, the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, instead of so much more as it was under Labor.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Reid.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I again rise because I want to express concern about the question of housing. Next to unemployment housing is the most -
– I raise a point of order on the Standing Orders which apply to this debate. My understanding of the debate on Estimates Committee A is that a ruling was given that a speaker had the opportunity to speak on only one occasion. The honourable member for Reid has already spoken in this debate and one or two other members in this chamber would like the opportunity to speak. If the rule is that a member may speak only once in this debate I think it is only right that those who have not yet spoken be given the call.
-Before I called the honourable member I had checked to ascertain whether it would be in order to call a member from the Opposition who had already spoken, and that was on the basis that an honourable member could speak twice in an Estimates debate. I was unaware of the ruling which the honourable member for Sturt has just referred to. The Clerk has just advised me that such a ruling was given. Accordingly, I have to uphold the point of order. I call the honourable member for Lalor.
-I take the opportunity in this debate on the report of Estimates Committee B to draw attention to some of the disadvantages that are felt by the people in the western suburbs’ of Melbourne. There is very clear evidence in the west of the metropolitan area of Melbourne of the inferior supply of services of various kinds which puts the citizens of that area at very great disadvantage. I believe that one of the problems of the philosophy of this Government has been that because it takes an essentially competitive view of the market and the way in which politics works, it takes the view that life is really divided into winners and losers and that the race is always to the swift and the battle to the strong. If the areas in the western suburbs of Sydney or the western suburbs of Melbourne happen to be represented by the Labor Party, part of the penalty the people pay for voting for the party that loses the election is that they will not receive the quality of services that will bring them up to the standards that are commonplace and which are generally expected in the eastern suburbs.
I am very conscious of the fact that in the electorate of Lalor which represents seven substantial communities and four smaller communitiesthree of them completely rural- the services are manifestly inferior to those in the rest of the metropolitan area. It does not matter what test is applied. For example, in the provision of dental services there are six times the number of dentists in the eastern suburbs that there are in the western suburbs. On educational retention rates or the number of people who complete the Higher School Certificate in the western suburbs compared with the eastern suburbs, one finds discrepancies of the order of one to six. For every one student in the electorate of Lalor who completes his Higher School Certificates there are six in an electorate such as Kooyong or Chisholm. I daresay that even if one went down as far as
Isaacs the discrepancy then would be of the order of one to four.
I have used this very striking illustration before. Let me compare two suburbs that are equidistant from the centre of Melbourne. For example, the city of Sunshine in the west and the city of Camberwell in the east are equidistant from the centre of Melbourne. The populations are approximately equal. Camberwell has a very effective and highly co-ordinated transport system. It is an affluent area with a high proportion of cars to each family. Nevertheless, it is an area that has a very good tram system, a very good bus system and a very good train system. It has an excellent transport system which is thoroughly integrated into the metropolitan area. But if we look at the city of Sunshine, exactly the same distance away, we find that there is one tram line, which goes along I suppose for a few hundred yards right at the eastern border of the city, and one train line running through but there are no co-ordinating transport systems.
A statistic which never ceases to amaze me is the number of teachers in Camberwell compared with the number of teachers in Sunshine. One finds this extraordinary statistic: In the city of Camberwell there are 2,500 teachers on the electoral roll whereas in the entire western suburbs of Melbourne, in the entire western third of Melbourne, the total number of teachers is only 1,600. Of course, that includes very many more metropolitan areas than just one. What that suggests, as must be patently obvious, is that we do not live in an egalitarian society in any sense; we live in a hierarchical society. In every profession, in every association, there is a distinct hierarchy and in Melbourne one finds that the apex of almost every hierarchial pyramid is found over in the eastern suburbs. It is only the lower slopes that are over in the western suburbs. I am sure that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) could confirm, very adequately and eloquently if he had the chance to speak again, that exactly the same phenomenon obtains in the western suburbs of Sydney. I do not believe the situation is worse in Sydney, but it really is pretty bad. There is an expectation of failure built into the educational system in the west. It is almost taken for granted that the people who go through the school system in the western suburbs are going to get only comparatively menial jobs. It is taken for granted that very few of them will complete their secondary education. It is taken for granted that only a handful of them will go on to any kind of tertiary education.
– This is a terrible reflection on the teaching profession.
-I will refer to that question in a minute. I remember one of the most disgraceful documents ever to appear and to be produced by any group under government auspices. It was the report of the committee on the fourth university which was set up a few years ago. It was clear that demographically there was a very large potential catchment area in the western part of Melbourne which would make it possible to maintain a tertiary institution. What happened was that they used exactly the same kind of argument that the sociologists in England used to use in the 1930s when they discussed that vexed question with which the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) would be familiar- whether flats for the working class ought to have bath tubs in them. They said: ‘No, they would not know what to do with bath tubs if you gave them to them. They would use the bath tubs for storing coal. Therefore it is pointless providing a service for which there is no demonstrable need ‘. What the people on the fourth university committee did was to look at the situation in the western suburbs of Melbourne and say: Well look, there you are. There are very few people who are going on to university in that area. Therefore, there is no demonstrable need to provide services. Therefore, if we are going to provide a fourth university for Victoria, it certainly will not be in an area where there is low need’. In other words, what they have done is create an educational system in the western suburbs of Melbourne that is almost completely divorced from the educational structure to the east and the south east.
That disparity is a very tragic one which I believe creates a great deal of social and economic division. The result is, of course, that if one happens to live in Camberwell or Malvern or in any of the suburbs of the east of Melbourne it is taken for granted that there is a very high chance, a very high probability, that one or more of one ‘s children will complete their secondary education and will go on to tertiary education. That is regarded as the norm and the people who do not follow that pattern, who drop out, are more or less regarded as exceptional. In the west there is the complete inversion of that situation. I say to my colleagues from Queensland that it is a very similar situation in rural areas where it is comparatively unusual to find that people go on to university.
– No. We have a university in the far north.
– Yes, there is a university at Townsville. That is to be commended. I hope that if Queensland ever joins the Federation we will have a much closer relationship with it in the future. We find that in the entire western area, in that western third, there is only one independent tertiary institution and that is the Footscray Institute of Technology- a very fine institution indeed. But it is the only one. It stands out like granny’s tooth because it is the only one in the entire area. It is true that a couple of departments of Melbourne University connected with veterinary science and agriculture are located in my electorate but, on the whole, there are very few opportunities for further education in the west. So what we get is a selffulfilling prophecy. People say: ‘We do not need services in the west, therefore they are not provided. Because they are not provided, there is very little demand’. So it goes on endlessly. I think that we ought to be doing far more towards providing further and better facilities, particularly for education in the west.
– It is always very interesting -
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)The question now is:
That each of the proposed expenditures covered in the report of Estimates Committee B be agreed to and the resolution and expression of opinion of Estimates Committee B be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is:
That the remainder of the Bill be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Passports Amendment Bill 1979.
States Grants (Roads) Amendment Bill 1979.
Quarantine Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 979.
Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill 1979.
Ombudsman Amendment Bill 1979.
Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 979.
Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1 979.
Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1 979.
Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1979.
Seamen ‘s Compensation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979.
Telecommunications (Interception) Bill 1979.
Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1979.
Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendments.
No. 1- Page 2, after clause 3, insert the following new clause: “3a. Section 8 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted:
The Chairman and the other members of the Board shall be paid salary and allowances in accordance with the arrangement entered into in pursuance of section 5.’.”.
No. 2- Page 2, after clause 4, insert the following new clause: “4a. Section 31 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted:
The person appointed to constitute the Tribunal shall be paid salary and allowances in accordance with the arrangement entered into in pursuance of section 30.’.”.
No. 3-Page 3, SCHEDULE, clause 1, leave out “Section 8, sub-section”, insert “Sub-section “.
No. 4-Page 3, SCHEDULE, clause 2, leave out “Section 8, sub-sections”, insert “Sub-sections “.
No. 5-Page 4, SCHEDULE, clause 3, leave out: “Section 31 . . . . I Omit ‘the last preceding section’, substitute ‘section 30 *. ‘ .
Motion (by Mr Street) agreed to:
That the amendments be agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to secure the future of the homeless persons welfare program by removing from the enabling legislation reference to a prescribed period. All honourable members will know that the prescribed period limits the period in which a project can be approved and in which rental subsidies and grants for fixtures and furnishings can be approved and paid. The allocation of funds for new capital projects will, of course, be decided at the appropriate time. Other subsidies under the Act, in relation to salaries, food, accommodation and meals, continue independently of this Bill.
The Homeless Persons Assistance Act was introduced in 1974 for a three-year period. The Act provides for capital grants to be made to eligible organisations, which are defined as nonprofit organisations, local governing bodies and charitable or benevolent trusts, towards the full cost of purchasing, constructing or renting buildings, including the purchase of furniture and equipment. It also enables the Commonwealth to pay 50 per cent of the salary of a social welfare worker employed at a homeless persons assistance centre. Approved organisations may also be paid a daily subsidy at prescribed rates for each homeless person to whom both food and accommodation are provided at a daily rate of 75c, and a subsidy of 25c for each meal supplied to non-resident homeless persons.
The introduction of the legislation in 1974 followed the 1 973 report of the Working Party on Homeless Men and Women. The report’s recommendations highlighted the need to concentrate assistance on upgrading existing facilities for permanently and chronically homeless men and women. It also suggested that the program be reviewed after its initial three years.
The prescribed period has been extended on two previous occasions. In each case, the extension has been accompanied by evaluation and review of the program. A report entitled ‘A Place of Dignity’ was tabled by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on 9 June 1978. Honourable members will recall that when the prescribed period of the Act was extended last year, it was indicated that the program was sufficiently well established to warrant discussions with State governments on their views about the sharing of responsibilities in this area. Following correspondence between the Prime
Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and State Premiers, discussions have been held with State representatives nominated by the relevant Ministers. The Commonwealth has decided to maintain its commitment to the program, while working as closely as possible with the States.
Since the program commenced, capital grants totalling $9.668m have been approved to upgrade, replace or construct facilities such as night shelters, reception and assessment centres, hostels, day centres and detoxification units. Of this amount, some $5.028m had been spent in the four years prior to 30 June 1 979 on facilities in all major cities. Further, an amount of $4m will be made available this financial year to build two major replacement hostels for homeless people in Brisbane. As I have indicated, the Government will be determining the provision of funds for new capital projects at the appropriate time. In total, 113 centres are approved at present. These provide overnight accommodation for 3,600 men and women. During 1978-79, a total of 947,380 persons were accommodated while 1,056,832 meals were made available to nonresidents. Rental subsidy of some $160,000 is being made available for 37 centres. Subsidies valued at $320,000 are also being provided for 44 social welfare workers at 40 centres.
The program, by assisting with rental subsidies and social welfare worker subsidies, has been able to contribute to the development of the halfway house concept. Presently, there are 19 such centres in inner city suburbs approved as homeless persons assistance centres under the program. This allows for placement of clients in a residential setting while they are assisted in adjusting to the many demands of a different life style by social welfare workers funded under the program. It should be noted also that the program is not directed exclusively towards chronically homeless men and a number of centres cater exclusively for single homeless women. Some agencies in developing new hostels have taken the opportunity to provide accommodation for both men and women. These measures provide conditions which are in line with those of the community generally and thus assist in the rehabilitation of clients.
In this regard, the definition of ‘social welfare worker’ has been interpreted in the widest possible sense under the program, the main criterion being that a worker provides a personal welfare service to homeless people. Although workers are attached to particular centres, the mobility of homeless people ensures their regular contact with workers. This makes available to homeless people a wide range of skills and expert assistance. We must not, however, lose sight of other programs which can provide assistance for homeless people. Honourable members will be aware of the youth services program under which $3 million has been offered to State Governments on a dollar-for-dollar basis for a pilot scheme over a three-year period. Amongst other things, that program will provide emergency accommodation for young people, concentrating on services which require recurrent funding, such as referral and counselling services. In addition, there are the family support services scheme, the community health program and the welfare housing programs. Each of these programs in its own way provides assistance for various categories of people in need.
In determining the future of the homeless persons assistance program, all State advisory committees have presented their views to the Government. This direct advice highlighted the need for securing subsidy arrangements. Further consultation with these advisory bodies, and with the State authorities will undoubtedly improve the co-ordinated delivery of services. Against this background of assistance to homeless people of all categories, the advice of the advisory committees, and the valuations of the program, the deletion of the ‘prescribed period ‘ from the Homeless Persons Assistance Act is a further demonstration of this Government’s commitment to those in need. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill before the House is to authorise the Pipeline Authority to construct a natural gas pipeline from Young on the main Moomba to Sydney pipeline to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga. The Bill provides for construction of a 324 mm pipeline at an estimated cost of $ 17.5m. When completed the pipeline will be operated and maintained by the Pipeline Authority, carrying natural gas from the Cooper Basin gas fields in South Australia. The Government’s decision to construct the pipeline was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his energy policy statement of 27 June 1979. Introduction of natural gas to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga will aid the Government ‘s liquid fuel conservation program by providing further opportunities for significant fuel substitution. Employment opportunities in Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga will be improved as a result of the stimulus provided to local industry and commerce by a natural gas supply.
As the Prime Minister indicated in his statement, a smaller diameter pipeline would be sufficient to meet the requirements of Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga. The Government has decided to authorise construction of the larger pipeline with the view to extending the pipeline from Wagga Wagga to Albury in the future and after consultation with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments. That extension would connect the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait gas fields with the major cities and establish an east coast natural gas pipeline grid. This would provide a measure of security of supply for the two largest cities in the Commonwealth in the event of interruption to supply from either gas field, a major pipeline failure or prolonged industrial action. Detailed planning for the Young to Wagga Wagga pipeline and easement acquisition will be undertaken in the current financial year. Construction of the pipeline is expected to commence early in 1980-81 and natural gas is expected to be reticulated in Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga in mid 1981. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
In the past the permanent works of the Snowy Mountains scheme for electricity generation and irrigation have been funded by advances from the Commonwealth, repayable over 70 years. The total amount invested in the scheme by the Commonwealth is now in excess of $820m. The Government is now of the view that following completion of the scheme funding by the Commonwealth by these means for certain assets required specifically for the operation and maintenance of the scheme is no longer warranted and that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric
Authority should finance such assets in accordance with normal commercial principles in a similar manner to most other authorities. This would also allow the Authority to depreciate such assets in accordance with accepted practice in the electricity supply industry. Sub-section 25 (3) of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act empowers the Authority, with the consent of the Treasurer, to borrow money, but does not enable the Treasurer to guarantee such borrowings. Such guarantee provisions are an essential pre-requisite to obtain funds at interest rates prescribed by the Australian Loan Council for semi-government authorities.
Therefore, in accordance with the Government’s view that guarantees of such borrowings ought to be given only upon the authority of Parliament, the principal provision of this Bill is to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act to enable the Treasurer to guarantee borrowings by the Authority and to delineate the forms of such borrowings. The opportunity has also been taken to amend certain sections of the Act to reflect modern legislative practice and Government policy designed to standardise statutory authority legislation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on the motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The major purpose of this and associated Bills I shall shortly introduce is to give effect to taxation proposals announced in my Budget speech. This Bill will also give effect to proposals announced in my statements of 12 June and 25 June 1979. The first of these related to tax avoidance schemes designed to exploit the general depreciation provisions of the tax law. The second related to depreciation allowable when plant is owned and used for only a part of an income year.
Before proceeding to the matters dealt with in the Bill I mention that it has not been possible to include in it provisions to give effect to some major initiatives announced in my Budget Speech. These are the proposed income tax concessions for conversion of oil-fired industrial equipment to other energy sources, the extension of the offshore petroleum rebate to onshore petroleum exploration and development, the provision of a system of depreciation allowances for buildings used in traveller accommodation and two proposals relating to motor vehicles. As honourable members are aware, the latter involve restrictions on depreciation allowances for luxury vehicles and adjustments- corresponding to those made in respect of depreciation allowances- where a taxpayer buys and sells a vehicle that had been held under a lease. These proposals are all matters of substance and considerable complexity, which require the most careful attention. In some cases they break entirely new ground. It has just not been possible to finalise them in time to be included in a Bill during these sittings. However, comprehensive statements on the proposals will be made within the next few weeks and the legislation will be available for introduction early in the 1980 Autumn sittings.
Facilities for the Storage of Grain, Hay or Fodder
One of the Budget proposals dealt with in the Bill is the special accelerated rate of depreciation for on-farm structural improvements used for storing grain, hay or fodder in the course of carrying on a primary production business. The cost of such a facility will be able to be written off as depreciation in equal instalments over five years beginning with the year in which it is first used or installed ready for use.
Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
– Could I have an explanation? Will the adjournment debate be brought on at the end of the Treasurer’s speech to give honourable members an opportunity to speak? If so, I will allow the Treasurer to continue without requiring a division.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, my understanding is that if honourable members wish to speak to the motion for the adjournment they will not be stopped.
– Can we speak to it immediately after you finish speaking?
– My understanding is that there is no further Government business.
-Order! The Chair is obliged to put the question. The question is: That the House do now adjourn. I put the question.
Question resolved in the negative.
-This accelerated allowance will apply to storage facilities ordered, or commenced to be constructed, by the taxpayer after 21 August 1979. As I mentioned in my Budget speech, the 20 per cent rate of investment allowance will continue to be available in respect of the facilities.
Retention Allowance for Private Companies
Another budget proposal implemented in the Bill is an increase from 60 per cent to 70 per cent in the retention allowance for business income of private companies. By so easing the dividend distribution requirements of private companies, the Government recognises that a frequent concern of small business is the maintenance of adequate working capital. The increased rate of retention allowance will first apply in respect of the 1 978- 79 income year.
As tax indexation is not to apply for 1979-80, the Bill proposes that the value of dependant rebates will be the same as for 1978-79. To reflect the change in the standard rate of tax, the Bill also provides that the rebate for general concessional expenditure in excess of $1,590 will be calculated at 33.07 per cent. There is also provision that the rebate provided to ensure that certain lump sum payments on account of annual or long service leave bear no more than the standard rate is to be calculated by reference to a standard rate of 33.07 per cent.
Provisional tax is, of course, the part of the pay-as-you-earn system designed to collect tax on income other than salary or wages within the year in which it is earned. Provisional tax arrangements seek to achieve reasonable consistency between the treatment of salary and wage earners and the self-employed. As income for 1979- 80 will generally be higher than the 1978-79 taxable income on which provisional tax is based, somewhat higher rates than those applicable for 1978-79 are to apply for provisional taxpayers who do not self-assess. In essence, the Bill provides that provisional tax for 1979-80 will be an amount equal to tax payable for 1978-79 plus a loading of 2.57 percentage points applied to the part of 1978-79 taxable income in excess of $3,893. Provisional tax will also be increased to take account of the withdrawal of the trading stock valuation adjustment as from the beginning of the 1979-80 income year.
In addition to the Budget proposals I have mentioned, the Bill gives effect to four decisions of the Government that I announced in recent months.
Pro Rata Depreciation
On 25 June this year I foreshadowed amendments to make it clear that a pro rata deduction for depreciation is to be allowed where plant is owned and used for business purposes for part only of an income year. This decision was taken following a decision by a taxation board of review which allowed a full year’s depreciation in a case in which plant was owned and used for only one day of the income year. That decision overturned a long-standing practice, widely accepted by accounting and legal practitioners as appropriate, of determining depreciation allowances by reference to the period during which the plant is owned and used. The amendment is to apply to plant acquired after 25 June 1979, except where it is acquired under a contract entered into on or before that date, and also to plant which the taxpayer commenced to construct after that date.
Depreciation Schemes to Avoid Tax
In my statement of 12 June 1979, I foreshadowed amendments to counteract schemes that exploit the depreciation provisions of the income tax law to create deductions for artificial losses. These amendments are contained in this Bill. The mechanics of one such scheme are for a promoter to lend a taxpayer an amount that enables the taxpayer to buy plant from the promoter at an excessive price. The taxpayer then uses the plant to produce assessable income, generally by hiring it back to the promoter for a short period. Because depreciation is allowable on the cost of plant, the scheme is designed to give the taxpayer an entitlement to depreciation based on the inflated cost price. A depreciation deduction based on that price is accelerated by the taxpayer then selling the plant at its true value, thereby producing a deduction in the form of a balancing adjustment of the difference between the inflated cost price and sale price at true value. By paying the promoter an amount representing the nominal present value of the loan, the taxpayer discharges that liability. In this way, for a small outlay, a very large income tax deduction may be manufactured. The amendments proposed in this Bill will ensure that in situations where no existing provision applies to limit the cost of an item of plant for depreciation purposes, its cost for those purposes will be restricted to the true value of the plant.
A second type of depreciation scheme exploits a feature of a special provision that deems a disposal of plant to occur when it is transferred on the formation or dissolution of a partnership or on a change in the interests in a partnership. In these circumstances the law permits the parties to specify a disposal value in the agreement giving rise to the change and, where this is done, that value must be accepted by the Commissioner of Taxation. Relying upon this provision, a partnership may purchase plant for a significant amount, most of which is provided by way of loan from the scheme promoter. As is the case with the first scheme, the plant is hired out by the partnership- often back to the vendors for a short period to ensure that the plant technically qualifies for depreciation allowances. The partnership is then reconstituted to admit as a new partner a company controlled by the promoter. The takeover agreement specifies a nominal amount as the value of the plant and this gives rise to a large depreciation deduction- by way of a balancing adjustment- to be shared by the original partners. The new partnership then enters into a series of transactions which results in the plant being sold back to the original owner for the original price and the proceeds of that sale are used to repay the loan to the promoter. Once again, for a very small outlay by the benefiting parties, a very large income tax deduction may be manufactured. As a counter to this type of scheme the Bill proposes amendments to the provision that enables partners to specify a transfer value of plant in the takeover agreement. The amendments will ensure that, should the parties specify a value that is less than both the true value and the depreciated value of the plant, the lower of these two values is to be adopted in calculating the balancing adjustments applicable to the transferors.
The law is also to be amended to deal with a variation of the second type of depreciation scheme. In this varied arrangement, the original partnership would not be reconstituted but would simply sell the plant to the promoter’s company for an amount that is well below the purchase price to the partnersip. In that event the partnership could found a claim for a manufactured balancing adjustment based on the actual sale price. As a counter to this posible variation the Bill provides that, if depreciable plant is sold in a situation in which the parties are not dealing at arm’s length at a price that is lower than both its true value and its depreciated value, the vendors will be treated as having sold the plant at the lower of the two values.
As mentioned in my statement of 12 June 1979, the transfer provisions that have enabled partners to manufacture depreciation deductions also appear in the special rnining provisions of the income tax law. Accordingly the Bill contains amendments to these provisions along the same lines as I have outlined in respect of the general depreciation provisions. The amendments are to apply to property acquired or disposed of, or in respect of which an interest is transferred, after 12 June 1979 other than acquisitions, disposals or transfers under contracts or agreements entered into on or before that date.
I also announced on 12 June that losses generated by these depreciation schemes will not be permitted to be carried forward for deduction into a future income year. This is, of course, in accord with the policy of the Government announced on 24 May 1979 that paper losses produced by tax avoidance schemes are not to be allowed to be carried forward as income tax deductions. The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1979 contains provisions that ban the carry-forward of deductions for artificial losses arising from so-called ‘Curran’ schemes, trading stock schemes, pre-payment schemes and expenditure recoupment schemes. Amendments in this Bill will apply the policy to paper losses generated by depreciation schemes. Paper losses created by these depreciation schemes in 1977-78 or earlier years will not be allowed as carry forward deductions in 1978-79 or any subsequent income year, while such losses manufactured in the 1978-79 income year will not be deductible against income of 1979-80 or subsequent years.
Penalties for false rebate claims
The Bill also contains provisions to give effect to my announcement of 20 July 1 979 that the income tax law was to be amended to expose taxpayers who make false claims for rebates to the same additional tax to which taxpayers who omit assessable income or make false claims for expenditure incurred are exposed. The rebates in question are those which are not related to specific amounts of expenditure. Under the present law a taxpayer who makes a false claim for a rebate for a spouse or other dependant may be subjected only to prosecution action. Action taken in a number of these cases has resulted in the imposition by the courts of fines and penalties which vary significantly but which are very substantial in some cases. By way of contrast a taxpayer who seeks to evade tax by omitting income, or by claiming a deduction in excess of expenditure incurred, may either be prosecuted or be liable to additional tax imposed by the statute but capable of remission in whole or in part by the Commissioner. The amendments now proposed will extend the additional tax alternative to false claims for rebates in cases where the claims are made after 20 July 1979. The rebates that will be affected by this amendment are those for a spouse, a daughter-housekeeper, a housekeeper, parent or parent-in-law, an invalid relative, as a sole parent, the zone rebate and the rebate for overseas service of members of the Defence Force or for service with a United Nations armed force.
The Bill proposes amendments to the gift provisions of the income tax law to provide deductions for gifts to funds established by Roman Catholic Archdioceses or dioceses exclusively to provide religious instruction in government schools in Australia. I mention that the gift provisions already apply to gifts to the Council for Christian Education in Schools representing the Protestant churches and the Council for Jewish Education in Schools. This new concession will apply in respect of gifts made on or after 1 July 1979.
The Government will be seeking passage of this and the associated Bills in the present sittings. I acknowledge that that will be a departure from the recent practice of allowing taxation legislation in respect of tax avoidance schemes to remain before the House for a considerable time to allow interested parties to study the provisions and offer comments on them. This is not practicable on this occasion mainly because of the need to enact legislation dealing with income tax payable for the current year. However, so far as the anti-avoidance provisions of the Bill are concerned, I undertake that any representations made in respect of them will be most carefully examined and any deficiency revealed by the representations will be remedied.
The Bill also proposes some minor technical amendments, including one to the Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Act 1978. This is designed to make it clear that, if a State were to impose an income tax in accordance with that Act, the Commonwealth would have authority to make the necessary PA YE deductions from the wages or salaries of its own employees. Details of the various measures in the BUI are contained in the explanatory memorandum that will be circulated shortly. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
-i draw the Deputy Speaker’s attention to the fact that I requested the Treasurer, at the end of his speech, to move that the House adjourn to allow the adjournment debate to go on. He agreed to that. If he does not move to adjourn the House there is not going to be -
– If you would sit down we would have a bit of time.
-i am asking you to meet your commitment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarsOrder! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– Could I speak to that, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-There is no question before the House.
– Out of courtesy to my colleague. I am happy to respond. I said to him that at the end of my speeches I would move the adjournment. If he would let me finish and stop interrupting me we would all have a bit of time.
– Could I ask the Treasurer, in the same spirit of courtesy, if that means we will have a half an hour for the adjournment debate or whether the House will adjourn at 1 1 o ‘clock?
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will resume his seat. This is not the arena for negotiations of this type.
– If the honourable member for Lalor keeps calm we can get on with it.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Income Tax (Rates) Act 1976 which declares the rates of tax payable by individuals and trustees. The main feature of the Bill is the removal of the income tax surcharge imposed as a temporary measure for the 1978-79 financial year. For pay as you earn tax instalment deduction purposes, the standard rate of personal income tax will accordingly be reduced from 1 December 1979 from the present effective 34.57 per cent to 32 per cent. As I have stressed on several occasions, this tax reduction will mean considerable increases in take-home-pay for salary and wage earners from that date. For the 1979-80 year as a whole, the Bill provides that the standard rate for assessment purposes will be 33.07 per cent, which is derived as a weighted average from the present effective PA YE scale and the PA YE scale to apply from 1 December 1979. Subject to surcharges above certain levels, the standard rate applies to taxable income exceeding $3,893. With the usual surcharges of 14 per cent and 28 per cent, the rates applying to income in the two ranges above $16,608 and $33,216 are 47.07 per cent and 61.07 per cent. As it was not possible to restore tax indexation for 1979-80 because of budgetary considerations, the income ranges I have just mentioned are the same as for 1 978-79.
The Bill provides that, in future, indexation can be implemented by an Act declaring that indexation is to apply for the particular year. Details of the changes proposed by the Bill are to be contained in an explanatory memorandum that is being prepared and which I will have circulated as soon as possible. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is an annual measure to formally impose tax for 1979-80 at the rates declared in the Income Tax (Rates) Act 1976, as proposed to be amended by the Bill I have just introduced. Details of the provisions of the Bill, which follow those of previous years, will be contained in an explanatory memorandum which is to be made available to honourable members as soon as it is printed. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will impose income tax for 1979-80 on the 1978-79 incomes of companies, and the 1979-80 incomes of superannuation funds, at the rates declared by the Bill. The rates are the same as for 1978-79, with one exception. The exception is for superannuation funds which are taxed in accordance with section 121da of the Income Tax Assessment Act. These funds, which are broadly in the nature of accumulation trusts, are taxed at a rate equal to the maximum rate of personal tax. In consequence of the change in the standard rate, the rate of tax for these funds is to be reduced from16½ per cent to 61.07 per cent for the 1979-80 financial year. The provisions of the Bill follow the same lines as in earlier years and details will be explained in a memorandum that I will have circulated shortly. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Social Services Amendment Bill 1979.
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) 1 979.
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Through the Government Whip I paid the courtesy to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) of letting him know that I was going to make some reference to his attitude in this House. Yesterday I was accused by the honourable member for Macarthur of telling a deliberate lie in this House and of making a cowardly attack upon him as well as reflecting on his integrity. At the outset I wish to deny that I made a cowardly attack upon the honourable member or that I reflected upon his integrity. This would be very difficult for me to do, as it would be for any other member of this House. Before one can attack the integrity of another, the other party must first possess integrity. If it can be pointed out to me that I did reflect upon the honourable member’s integrity, I will be only too ready, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you readily know, to apologise.
It is not unusual for the honourable member for Macarthur to claim misrepresentations, especially when one touches upon his activities with the former mighty financial giant, Patrick Partners, which at the time of its crash recorded the largest financial loss in Australia’s history. I welcome the honourable member for Macarthur to the House. Honourable members will recognise the sensitivity of the honourable member for Macarthur. His sensitivity is apparent through association with his former company’s corrupt financial operations. When the very name of Patrick Partners is mentioned in the House in his presence, he rises, jumps and is virtually up and down like a toilet seat at a mixed party. On or about 23 March 1977 he accused the then Leader of the Opposition- to use some of his own words recorded in Hansard- of ‘making vile accusations’, ‘making a scurrilous attack’ and making ‘patent untruths and totally untrue statements’. The Leader of the Opposition was quoting from a report by Mr Masterton, an inspector appointed under the New South Wales Securities Industries Act from 1 July 1974 to 6 August 1975, to look into the activities relating to the management of Patrick Partners, of which the honourable member for Macarthur was a director. He is known as the elusive twelfth man. He is very sensitive.
Let us look at his association with Vam Ltd. The honourable member for Macarthur was one of six financial journalists employed on five daily newspapers with a great deal of influence. I inform the honourable member for Bendigo who is attempting to interject that he can obtain this information from these books in my possession.
Order! Before the honourable member proceeds, he will realise no doubt that he could be accused of reflecting on an honourable member. I seek an assurance from the honourable member that that is not his intention.
– It is not my intention at all.
-The honourable member may proceed.
– I am not that type, as you well know, Mr Deputy President. The five daily newspapers had a great deal of influence on the Sydney and Melbourne share markets. He was a contributor to the financial pages of a weekly journal. Along with others, he was amongst the list of privileged subscribers who were offered shares in Surveys and Mining Ltd at 60c a share, compared with the market price of 90c a share. This offer I believe was made so that the journalists involved would give the company favourable treatment in their columns. Within one month of this placement to the favoured at 60c a share, the realisable market price had risen four times that figure, finally reaching $4 a share in May 1960. The honourable member for Macarthur tells us that he has never been given any shares. That may well be true. However, these shares were handed to him on a platter and to my mind this is tantamount to a gift. He has brazenness and impertinence. He reminds me of a case in the criminal court where the accused was found not guilty by the jury of murdering his mother and father-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not know where the speech of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) was prepared, but I shudder to think. I express my surprise that the honourable member for Hunter, in preparing his speech, could stoop as low as he has managed to tonight.
– That is an insulting remark.
– It is to a man of integrity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! I caution the honourable member for Macarthur not to reflect on a member. If he does he will be required to withdraw.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I use the very phrase of the honourable member for Hunter. I could not reflect upon him. It would be impossible. I am interested in the fact that the honourable member for Hunter has given me the opportunity to mention this matter again tonight because he specifically said: ‘He was given a parcel of shares to write a favourable offer before he came in here’. That was the scandalous and untrue allegation that he made. Can he demonstrate to this House where the favourable offer was written by me? He has made an allegation. I must say that I will be very keen to look at the allegation about the price and the alleged gift. I stress to him that at that time there were many issues by many corporations. I stress once again to him that I wrote a column entitled: ‘Speculator’s Diary’. That column was followed by interested readers, if I may use that expression.
– It was a very good column.
– It was a very good column indeed. I have copies of this column at appropriate dates. That at least shows the little more interest that I have in finding out the facts than the honourable member for Hunter has. The interesting point is that the honourable member for Hunter made an allegation about me being given something in order to do something. That was the important part of the allegation. He said that I was given these shares in order to write a favourable report. His actual words were: ‘to write a favourable offer’. He has failed to demonstrate the essential point that a favourable offer or a favourable anything was written. I frankly state to the House that what I am about to say is not an admission, as the Australian very curiously wrote yesterday. There is no admission about it. I am asserting that I was the speculator of ‘Speculator’s Diary’. I am proud of that diary, I am proud of its record and I am proud of the fact that it was one of the most popular sections of the financial Press at that time. At no stage did I endeavour to hide, conceal or heal any of the things that were done at that time. I have always been prepared to do everything in public. I wish that the honourable member for Hunter would do the same.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 6 November -
– I take a point of order.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports may speak to the point of order.
– The point of order is that a very clear undertaking was given by the Treasurer -
– Don’t you know your Standing Orders?
– I accept undertakings given by Ministers. A Minister of the Crown was in charge of the House and I prefer to deal with him.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I speak to the point of order?
-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The Chair was in error in according to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports the right to speak to a point of order. That was done in the hope that the matter would be dispatched briefly. The Chair is now of the view that that will not be the case. Therefore, I shall proceed to attend to the matters to which I am required to attend.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Hunter has been misrepresented.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this is outrageous!
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat.
– I will not resume my seat.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. The honourable members on my right will assist if they remain silent. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports may be under the illusion that the 1 1 o’clock rule has been suspended. That is not the case. It requires a special motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. The question which was put at 10.30 had no bearing on the interruption of proceedings at 1 1 o’clock. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 6 November, at 3 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 29 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Nil.
The above answer is based on the best information available to the Government. Clearly, however, it can only cover visits or hospitality of an official nature.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
With this basic premise in mind, the Council undertook to have developed a major campaign having the following components and inter-related aims:
A national apolitical community involvement program among all people within the Australian community: to increase a sense of national identity, pride and purpose towards our country’s skills, products, achievements and potential.
A campaign among management, unions and workers in a wide cross-section of industries: to improve quality, design, productivity and marketing so as to enhance Australian competitiveness on both local and overseas markets.
A campaign among all consumers from the housewife to corporate and Government managers and union leaders: to encourage the purchase and use, and the export of Australian products, services and technology so as to increase employment opportunities.
A considerable amount of research and analysis was undertaken over several months prior to the launching of the campaign to ensure that community support would be available for a campaign of this nature. The research established that the aims of Project Australia are congruent with the wishes of the majority of Australians.
The research also demonstrated that whilst there is a degree of latent pride and awareness in Australia, there is also a degree of concern about where we are going in the future, and the son of Australia we are preparing for our children. The concept of Government being involved in stimulating national pride was seen as a legitimate role by respondents who looked to leaders from all walks of life to set the standard.
The Commonwealth Government’s decision to support this campaign was made on the basis of the aims and objectives stated above.
Task Quantum Consultants Pty Ltd (Research)
International Public Relations Pty Ltd (Public Relations)
Monahan, Dayman and Adams (Advertising)
Fees charged by Monahan, and Adams to the Department of Industry and Commence are for agency services associated with non-media advertising support Apart from these fees, the agency is paid a commission for services in relation to planning, creating and producing advertisements to appear in the media.
These fees are paid from a fund of media commissions and fees on all Commonwealth Government advertising. The fund is held as a co-operative pool by the Australian Government Advertising Advisory Council, an independent organisation of advertising agents. Amounts paid by the Council result from negotiations between the agency and the Council and by precedent are considered to be private information.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The operation of separate all-economy and mixed class air services was also assessed by the Committee that reported on Australia’s international civil aviation policy. The Committee indicated that the main considerations such as these would need to be fully assessed when evaluating any operation of this kind.
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 30 August 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
So while the Nomad N24A has always had lower fuel costs per passenger mile compared with twin turbo-prop and twin piston engined competitors, now both the N24A and N22B have lower fuel costs per aircraft mile.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 30 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the Commonwealth/State hospital cost-sharing agreements each State has undertaken to provide free of charge to hospital patients (or at no extra cost over and above the normal accommodation charge in respect of hospital insured or private patients), surgical supplies including agreed prostheses necessary for discharge.
As the day-to-day administration of public hospitals remains a State responsibility, the lists of ‘agreed prostheses’ have been accepted as submitted by the States. It is the Queensland Government’s decision that a means test be applied in respect of the supply of interim artificial limbs. The Commonwealth supports any move by Queensland to bring its list of agreed prostheses into line with that of New South Wales and the other States.
Temporary or interim limbs, which are normally intended to be worn only over short periods and under medical supervision, are considered to be an integral part of the surgical management of the patient and are therefore more appropriately the responsibility of the hospital concerned.
Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Question No. 4577)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
What countries have ratified the international Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Five countries have ratified the Convention, namely;
Yemen Arab Republic
Fifteen countries have signed the Convention subject to ratification, namely:
Federal Republic of Germany
German Democratic Republic
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
United States of America.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These statements did not refer to Australia’s attitude to waste disposal safety because the subject of waste disposal was not covered by that agreement. The United States is fully aware of Australia’s position that there is no intention of Australia’s storing the radioactive wastes of other countries.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1 979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia, with our small but concentrated population, the major demand warranting the most frequent international air services is centred in Melbourne and Sydney. Nevertheless, the Government continues to actively encourage the international airlines to serve the other smaller gateways, including Brisbane.
More than 20 international flights pass through Brisbane each week. The current air service frequencies through Brisbane reflect that city’s geographic location and the relatively limited demand for international services. No doubt as demand for travel to and from Brisbane increases the frequency of services will also increase.
Domestic concessional fares have been introduced for Australian residents and overseas visitors who are linking with international flights. These result in significant savings for those travelling to and from Brisbane and also encourage tourist travel within Queensland. A ‘See Australia’ fare is also available to all international visitors. This fare provides 30 per cent discount on the round economy fare for travel over domestic sectors and can be booked inside and outside Australia. It has no advance booking conditions but applies to journeys of more than 1,000 km in total.
Nurse Training Course at Royal Canberra Hospital (Question No. 4594)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 1 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 18 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The addresses to the nation were produced by Alan Walker and Associates Pty Ltd which may have subcontracted particular elements of the work to Enterprise Colorvideo Ltd. As the Managing Director of Enterprise Colorvideo Ltd indicated on the ABC program AM on 13 September his is a commercial videotape facility company which has undertaken work for all the major political parties including the Labor Party.
With regard to the Australian Film Commission loans, the Minister for Home Affairs advises that the Chairman of the Australian Film Commission has assured him that the loans were made in the normal way, that to date all repayments due have been met and that the Commission is well satisfied with its loans to the Company.
With regard to the contract for production of the Special Broadcasting Service’s pilot ethnic television program, the Executive Director of the Special Broadcasting Service has assured the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that the contract followed a selective tendering procedure and that Australian Community Television, a subsidiary of Enterprise Colorvideo, was the only organisation of proven capability which at that time could guarantee the availability on a weekly basis of the facilities needed for the full 1 3 weeks period.
The Executive Director of the Special Broadcasting Service has also said that at no stage during negotiations by the authority to obtain television production facilities for the first cycle of the experimental ethnic television service did the SBS receive any approach from members of the Government in relation to any matters including contract and other arrangements relating to the establishment of that service.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 1 8 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19791025_reps_31_hor116/>.